Updated: Aug 24, 2020
When familiar with the Simple View of Reading and the cognitive science regarding effective teaching and learning, teachers and school leaders often ask about which reading assessments they should be conducting in their schools to identify at-risk students early as well as to monitor the progress of cohorts, especially in the first few years of school. This blogpost has been very slow coming together as I’ve struggled to find the time (and the motivation) with everything else that is going on right now, but here it is.
Current assessment practices in Victoria
You can read all about current assessment options and practices in Victoria here: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/english/Pages/litengassess.aspx
The English Online Interview (EOI), available for use in Foundation-2, is mandatory in Foundation only. Administration of Module 1 is to be conducted with all Foundation students in Term 1. You can read more about the EOI here: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/teachers/support/English%20Online%20Interview%20Guide.pdf
In short, the EOI has three key components. I have summarised them and what is assessed within each component below (Foundation – Module 1).
The Diagnostic Assessment Tools in English (DATE) was designed to follow on from the EOI, if desired. It has two components, which are diagnostic tools and monitoring tools. You can read more about them here: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/english/assessment/Diagnostic%20Assessment%20Tools%20in%20English%20-%20List%20of%20Assessment%20Tools.pdf
There are nine Early Literacy and English Diagnostic Tools. Remember that the DATE is optional. What is expected of students is summarised below:
These tools (skills) link to the English curriculum and you can read more about it here: https://victoriancurriculum.vcaa.vic.edu.au/english/english/curriculum/f-10
Running Records is another tool commonly used in Victorian schools although use is not mandatory. You can read more about RR here: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/english/literacy/readingviewing/Pages/examplerunning.aspx
Here is a quote from that page to whet your appetite:
MSV is recorded in the Information Used (E) section of the Running Record and the specific sources of information used to contribute to the error are identified and circled as to whether the reader was using:
- semantic cues (meaning)
- syntactic cues (structure)
- graphophonic cues (visual)” (DET, 2018)
Of course, use of PM benchmarking and Fountas & Pinnell resources are rife too, but given DET does not have a public opinion on these, I’ve left them out of this review.
What’s the problem?
Phonics knowledge (how well students understand phoneme-grapheme correspondences or PGCs) is not adequately assessed or monitored via the EOI, DATE or RR (or PM benchmarking and F&P resources).
Phonemic awareness skills are not adequately assessed in the only mandatory assessment, the EOI.
Reading comprehension assessments in the EOI and DATE appear to demonstrate an overreliance on illustrations and predictable text structures. This impacts our capacity to detect both decoding and comprehension difficulties.
We simply cannot be confident about how well early reading skills are developing for children based on the data we gather via these tools, which means many students with difficulties are overlooked or identified way too late.
Funnily, DET advises the use of more detailed and specific assessments for (and to identify) students with learning difficulties and dyslexia via their Learning Difficulties and Dyslexia page, including the Letter and Letter-Sound Knowledge Profile, Phonological Knowledge Test, Word Reading Profile, and Comprehension Profile. You can read more about these in the link below. How you are supposed to come to identifying these students early enough using EOI and RR is a mystery, but these tools may have some potential for broader use in that they collect far more relevant data than any other DET tools.
What should we be assessing (and teaching)?
The National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (NITL), The Rose Report, and the National Reading Panel (NRP) have all been clear that there are five key aspects to effective reading instruction. These are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension. If these are the pillars of our instruction, we need to assess and monitor students’ skill acquisition in these domains, as measures of the effectiveness of our teaching and their progress in learning.
Many schools I work with have developed their own suite of assessments given the limitations of the EOI, DATE and RR. I have outlined possible options below which are commonly used.
Phonics and word reading ability
Phonics Screening Check (UK) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phonics-screening-check-2019-materials
Phonics Screening Check (SA) https://www.education.sa.gov.au/teaching/curriculum-and-teaching/literacy-and-numeracy/phonics-screening-check
Castles & Coltheart Test (CC2) https://www.motif.org.au/home/test/cc2
Letter Sound Test (LeST) https://www.motif.org.au/home/test/lest
Test of Word Reading Efficiency – Second Edition (TOWRE-2) https://www.pearsonclinical.com.au/products/view/484
Sutherland Phonological Awareness Test – Revised (SPAT-R) https://shop.acer.edu.au/sutherland-phonological-awareness-test-revised-spat-r-starter-kit
Phonological Awareness Test – Second Edition (PAT-2) https://www.proedaust.com.au/phonological-awareness-testsecond-edition-normative-update-pat-2-nu (this test also looks at PGC knowledge and decoding)
Foundations of Early Literacy Assessment (FELA) https://shop.acer.edu.au/foundations-of-early-literacy-assessment-fela (this test also looks at PGC knowledge and decoding)
Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing – Second Edition (CTOPP-2) https://www.pearsonclinical.com.au/products/view/516
Phonological Awareness Screening Test (PAST) https://www.thepasttest.com/
DIBELS Oral Reading and Fluency (ORF) https://dibels.uoregon.edu/assessment/dibels/measures/orf.php (this test measures accuracy of decoding as well as fluency so you can monitor PGC knowledge development too)
York Assessment of Reading Comprehension (YARC) - Fluency component
Neale Analysis of Reading Ability (NARA) - Rate component
Comprehension (and comprehensive reading assessments)
Test of Everyday Reading Comprehension (TERC) https://www.motif.org.au/home/test/terc
York Assessment of Reading Comprehension (YARC) https://paa.com.au/product/yarc-australian/
Neale Analysis of Reading Ability (NARA) https://shop.acer.edu.au/neale-analysis-of-reading-ability
Spelling (if you're interested)
Diagnostic Spelling Test (DIST) for sounds, irregular words and nonwords https://www.motif.org.au/home/tests
South Australian Spelling Test (SAST)
http://www.starjump.com.au/media/Assessment%20Tools/South%20Australian%20Spelling%20Test.pdf (and available at many other web locations)
An example assessment scope and sequence
This has been put together by Natalie Campbell, Stephanie Le Lievre and Jasmyn Hall. Check out their Reading Science in Schools Facebook page too.
I hope you are all staying safe, sane and well during the pandemic.