Based on the universal screening, we can identify students who exhibit risk factors. Although the screenings may not provide specific reasons for why the student is at risk, they serve as an important starting point for instruction. The focus then shifts to ensuring that students who are identified as at risk receive robust core instruction and any additional support they may need. Monitoring the progress of these students becomes essential to gauge the effectiveness of the instruction and make any necessary adjustments along the way.
Teachers will need to collect additional information for some students. If a student does not reach grade-level benchmarks as measured by regular screening, administering additional diagnostic assessments can help guide Tier 1 small group differentiated instruction as well as provide additional information to design targeted Tier 2 support.
Diagnostic assessments delve deep into specific skill areas that require attention. While these assessments may take longer to administer, they provide a comprehensive understanding of a student’s strengths and areas of needed support in a particular skill. For example, a diagnostic assessment may focus solely on phonological awareness, specifically segmentation, by assessing segmentation at the sentence, syllable, and phoneme levels. This allows us to pinpoint the exact areas in the skill progression that a student has mastered so we can tailor our instruction accordingly.
One diagnostic assessment that can be particularly useful for K–3 learners is CORE Learning’s Phonics Survey. This assessment specifically targets phonics skills and gives precise insights into a student’s phonics and decoding abilities through tests of letters and sounds as well as reading real and pseudowords. The CORE Phonics Survey and many other assessments can be found in CORE Learning’s Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures. This resource has assessments that assist in identifying skill gaps across the five essential elements of reading and can be used diagnostically to supplement any assessment system in use.
Diagnostic assessments eliminate guesswork. Teachers no longer have to rely on assumptions or general observations, but can instead rely on concrete data to guide instruction.
Progress monitoring assessments are used to determine whether students are making adequate progress and also to determine whether instruction needs to be adjusted. Progress monitoring measures include curriculum-embedded assessments such as unit tests, which measure to what extent students have learned the material taught from the specific curriculum being implemented. They also include general or external measures for assessing critical reading skills such as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, or comprehension. Curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is an assessment tool that can also be used for progress monitoring.
As part of Tier 1 instruction, it is recommended that all students be screened three times a year (fall, winter, spring). This three-time-a-year screening can also be considered to be a type of progress monitoring for all students. Students who do not reach grade-level benchmarks on the fall, winter, and spring assessments will require more frequent monitoring to guide ongoing instructional decision making. Those students not reaching grade-level benchmarks should be receiving support as part of Tier 2 or 3 instruction. Progress monitoring for students in Tier 2 or 3 intervention should occur bi-weekly or weekly, respectively.
Progress monitoring provides valuable data points that help us track individual student growth and make data-informed instructional decisions. The ability to monitor progress is essential to ensuring that students are making the desired academic gains. By continuously assessing student progress and analyzing the results, we can refine our strategies, tailor interventions, and ensure that students are on track to reach their goals.
Outcome assessment is often used at the end of major units of instruction and at year’s end. Annual state-level required assessments are an example of outcome assessments. Outcome assessments provide data about student accomplishments and are useful for planning the next major segment of instruction and for determining changes to a school’s curriculum. They also provide programmatic information for large groups of students.
Promoting Reading Success for All K–3 Learners
A comprehensive assessment system plays a pivotal role in helping teachers to enhance students’ reading skills and improve overall student outcomes. The Effective Reading Assessment Systems chart below outlines how to best utilize screening, progress monitoring, diagnostic and outcome assessments across kindergarten through Grade 3.