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Standardized Test, Assessments, and Portfolios for Reading

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Running head: Standardized test, assessments, and portfolios for reading

Standardized test, assessments, and portfolios for reading Students are constantly being “assessed” by their teachers. We examine their behavior patterns, learning styles, reading abilities, and even their happiness. The purpose of assessments is to educate the teacher on what our students know and how we can better serve them in learning the curriculum and more. State tests are administered yearly for students, and teachers give formative and summative assessments frequently in the classroom. There are benefits and downfalls to each type of assessment. Afflerbach (2005) discusses that the results from standardized reading assessments are “at best an approximation of the students’ actual achievement level” (p.158). Standardized test tell us if our student is above, at, or below proficient. They do not tell us what areas the student does well at or what skills they are lacking in. According to the work of Buly and Valencia (2002), “Students scoring below proficient on state assessments are usually placed in supplemental or remedial reading classes, which often focus on phonemic awareness and decoding skills at any grade level (Buly & Valencia, 2002). After being put in these “special help” reading classes, the student then goes back into content area classes (English, Math, Science) which all have difficult text where the student struggles with comprehension. The problem we are then faced with is students who can read the words on the page, but cannot comprehend the text. The focus for these students should instead be on fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies. To help these students, we need to let go of the “surface-level approach” and supply our students with more “just right” text (Dennis, 2009). He also states that “students will benefit from explicit comprehension instruction based on text at their independent reading level” (Dennis, 2009). Mandated tests give only a snapshot of a student’s ability, whereas use of a variety of assessments gives teachers a clearer and full portrait of the students reading skills (Rubin, 2011). In most classrooms we find teachers using several different formative and summative assessments that they control. “Teachers usually have little to no say in standardized test, but can feel empowered by their capacity to use alternative assessments” (Rubin, 2011, p. 608). One reason for assessment it to determine the level of text that will challenge a student and motivate them to read rather than causing frustration. There are many different types of assessments that the teacher can use in her classroom to mix up reading instruction and gage where student learning is occurring. Also, the “Data from a variety of assessments can help advise a teacher about the text difficulty that students can handle, in addition to pinpointing their specific strengths and weaknesses in reading” (Dennis, 2009). DIBELS is a reading assessment program that test for phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and decoding. It contains many subtest for different categories and students’ scores should be recorded to compare pre-test with post-test. DIBELS is used in thousands of schools across the nation to provide formative data to schools. Scheffel, Lefly, and Houser prove through their research that some negatives of the program are that it focuses more on decoding and speed and not as much on comprehension (which is the most important part of why we read), and it can be a problem for ELL students due to its focus on decoding ( Sheffel, Lefly, & Houser, 2012). They due conclude that DIBELS is a very effective in identifying at risk readers in need of extra support ( Sheffel, Lefly, & Houser, 2012). There are Informal Reading Inventories, which focus on evaluating comprehension through post reading questions and have been recommended for reporting and recording reading growth over the course of the school year (Paris, 2002). Running records, where the student and teacher can keep record of their personal reading and progress. The cloze test which is recommended for supporting struggling readers with comprehension and vocabulary (Rubin, 2011) requires students to fill in deletions of texts, making sense of a passage. There area also many computer testing programs that will give a student post questions over a text they have just completed to check for understanding. The best assessment plan is one that contains a variety of several assessment techniques, this will ensure that we are really finding our students skill levels and identifying their areas of weakness where they need extra support.
Portfolios are a type of alternative/authentic assessment in which a student's progress is measured over a period of time during a lesson or unit. The great thing about portfolio assessment is the way it is naturally incorporated into instruction: there is no time lost on assessment. “Assessment is a true learning experience, and not external to the learning process” (NCLRC, 2012). Another bonus of portfolios is the way it promotes parent involvement for the student’s success. They truly showcase the learning that the student has acquired and documents how they came to this learning. A portfolio can be just a folder of a student’s best work and evaluations of its strengths and weaknesses, or it can be a showcase of all the work that got them to a final product, for instance the drafts and peer edits. A great idea for using a portfolio project in a language arts class is throughout the reading of a story. It will serve as the formative assessments throughout the text as well as a summative project after finishing the reading. It could contain things such as predictions, favorite character, favorite part, main character, plot of the beginning, middle, problem/solution, end, connections of story to self and world, and at the end a book review or letter to a character. Creating a folder or foldout with this information helps the student really get involved in the readings, reflect, and make connections to their own lives. Assessment is an important part of a teachers job, it informs the teacher of the needs of her students, and creates a way of communication between teacher, student, and parents. Ideally, many forms of assessment should be used to supplement the state mandated test that will be administered.

References:
Afflerbach, P. (2005). National reading conference policy brief: High Stakes testing and reading assessment. Journal of Literacy Research, 37(2), 151-162.
Buly, M.R., & Valencia, S.W. (2002). Below the Bar: Profiles of students who fail state reading assessments. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(3). 219-239.
Dennis, D.V. (2009). “I’m not stupid”: How assessment drives appropriate reading instruction.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 53(4), 283-290.
Paris, S.G. (2002). Measuring children’s reading development using leveled texts. The Reading
Teacher, 56(2), 168-170.
Rubin, J. (2011). Organizing and Evaluating Results from Multiple Reading Assessments. The
Reading Teacher, 64(8), 606-611.
Scheffel, D., Lefly, D., & Houser, J. (2012). The Predictive Utility of DIBELS Reading
Assessment for Reading Comprehension among Third Grade English Language Learners & English Speaking Children. Reading Improvement, 49 (3), 75-92.
http://www.nclrc.org/portfolio/2-2.html

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