Reading Assessments

Reading assessments are techniques used to test language skills. This method of testing is used both for mother tongue and foreign languages. Assessment tests can include multiple-choice, open-ended questions and cloze tests (where certain words are removed). These tests aim to measure the learner's capacity in the field of word recognition, spelling, vocabulary, comprehension and oral reading rate. Reading components include print skills and meaning skills. Print skills consist of phonemic awareness, word analysis, word recognition, spelling and fluency. Meaning skills include word meaning, background knowledge and comprehension. One of the common tests used in early school years is the running record in which the student has to read a short text, normally 100 words, which measures his or her reading rate. Apart from the reading speed, the teacher has to record and analyze errors such as skipped words, mispronunciation, wrong endings and word replacements - which all give valuable information on the student's development. The child's reading rate is measured on a regular basis over time.

Reading comprehension is one of the most widespread tests. It includes reading a passage and answering some questions about the content of the text. Questions normally concern information which is implied in the text and also assesses the learner's ability to paraphrase a story in his or her own words. Some questions may test interpretation and analytical skills. In general, the listening comprehension level of a child is higher than his or her reading comprehension level. A reading accuracy test contrasts to comprehension as the former focuses on meaning, while the latter lays the emphasis on reading a passage out loud clearly without mistakes. Mistakes give evidence for the learner's decoding problems. This practice measures the child's decoding capacity - the ability to translate the written word into a sound. Research shows that for young learners a lack of decoding skills, rather than comprehension skills, can have an impact on reading.

Decoding skills can be measured by exercises in which the learner reads isolated words out of context. When learning to read, children often try to guess words based on pictures or on other clues. Therefore, even when the child does not make mistakes in reading, the teacher should try to identify which words are familiar to the child and which ones he or she has guessed and to distinguish them from the words the child has actually read. When the child relies on guesses, his or her reading technique is not very consistent as the understanding of the text is often impeded by inaccurate guesses.

Reading tests also cover linguistic skills. To test linguistic competence, questions concern certain lexical or grammatical peculiarities of the text. This exercise is particularly good for testing the learner's vocabulary level and size. Reading skills are highly dependent on several factors such as background knowledge, phonology, semantic and lexical knowledge as well as cipher knowledge. Research shows that general knowledge is crucial for reading comprehension. Hence, the lack of knowledge may have considerable impact on the performance of a task.

Reading assessments are important to help the teacher detect and alert parents to any reading and learning disorders. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, nearly four out of 10 fourth graders read below the basic level expected for their age. The Early Reading First program supports the development of pre-reading skills that prepare children for elementary school while other programs help children attain reading skills through elementary, middle and high school. The U.S. Department of Education is planning new assessments in the 2014-2015 school year as part of the "Beyond the Bubble Tests: The Next Generation of Assessments" announced by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in September 2010.

Many of those who suffer from a reading disorder have difficulties with the phonemic awareness. Dyslexia is a widespread condition in which a person mixes up the order of sounds or words and hence the brain experiences difficulties in processing language. There are two types of dyslexia - developmental phonological dyslexia and developmental surface dyslexia. The former concerns the changing of initial and middle letters in a word. The latter case concerns the inability to process irregular words. Statistics shows that 80 percent of initial learning disabilities are diagnosed as reading disabilities. Half of the adults whose reading skills are below grade level in the United States are diagnosed with reading disabilities. According to the Dyslexia Research Institute, 10 to 15 percent of Americans are dyslexic.

Reading Assessments: Selected full-text books and articles

Reading Assessment in the Classroom By McDonald, Rob Practical Literacy, Vol. 14, No. 3, October 2009
Surviving the Reading Assessment Paradox By Cleveland, Laurie Teacher Librarian, Vol. 35, No. 2, December 2007
The Timing of Early Reading Assessment in Kindergarten By Santi, Kristi L.; York, Mary; Foorman, Barbara R.; Francis, David J Learning Disability Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 4, Fall 2009
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy through the Communicative and Visual Arts By James Flood; Shirley Brice Heath; Diane Lapp Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005
Librarian's tip: Chap. 20 "Alternative Methodology for Diagnostic Assessment of Written and Verbal Responses to Works of Art," Chap. 51 "Accountability through Assessment and Instruction," and Chap. 53 "Alternative Assessment, Literacy Education, and School Reform"
Children with Reading Disabilities: Does Dynamic Assessment Help in the Classification? By Swanson, H. Lee; Howard, Crystal B Learning Disability Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 1, Winter 2005
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Using Standardized Test Unconventionally: An Adapted Reading Assessment By Liu, Ping; Parker, Richerd; Lara, Rafael Reading Improvement, Vol. 38, No. 1, Spring 2001
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