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Using Technology to Assess Reading Literacy

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Using technology to assess literacy skills is just a smart move. It gives teachers data on a student's current level of performance and details for future instruction. Read on to learn about technology's role in assessment and how is it used.

Literacy Assessments and Technology

Smart teachers know they need to assess students often, and Ms. Kay is no exception. She knows screenings and other assessments give data she can use for future instruction and that provides a snapshot of current levels of performance. As a literacy teacher, Ms. Kay has several options for formative testing, or assessments meant not for a grade but to gauge a student's skills and knowledge. She can use running records, reading observations, and student work to gather information. Thanks to technology she also has another option.

Technology assessments in literacy are any test or screening given to students on a device to gather data on their literacy skills. They are designed to be comprehensive in scope; in other words, they gather a lot of information about the student's knowledge of literacy. How do they work? Let's follow Ms. Kay as she takes her students to the computer lab.

Technology Used for Literacy Screenings

It's the beginning of the year and Ms. Kay has a brand new group of students. She needs to get to know them as readers quickly so she can design lessons according to their current skill levels. One quick and effective way to measure a student's reading skills, such as sight word vocabulary, accuracy, comprehension and fluency, is to use technology.

Ms. Kay's students have taken these assessments before. They know how to log into the computer program using a specific user name and ID that belongs only to them. This allows Ms. Kay to track their performance later. Once the students are logged in they begin their assessment. This one, used as a screening, will give Ms. Kay a baseline of skills so she can determine student's understanding of reading in real time. What type of information is she given?

Data Provided by Technology Assessments

One component Ms. Kay is a big fan of is the amount of data technology assessments provide. The students answer a series of questions designed to determine their understanding of a variety of skills. The program then takes their answers and compiles several reports for her to view.

  • Scaled Scores (SS)

One component an online reading test provides is a scaled score, or SS. This number is determined by the number of correct answers and how difficult the question is, not just how many questions a student gets correct. Ms. Kay uses the SS to compare students in her class; the range used for the SS is the same for all students.

  • Grade Equivalent

Another useful piece of information Ms. Kay is given is the grade equivalent, or GE, of her students. The program takes her students' answers and determines what approximate grade level the student is reading on. These scores are typically determined not by text on the grade level but rather by the performance of other students on the same test. For example, if Karen scored a GE of 4.5 it doesn't necessarily mean she's reading on a fourth grade, fifth month level. Rather, she is reading books that most students in that grade level are reading at this time.

  • Instructional Reading Level

Probably the most useful information Ms. Kay receives is the instructional reading level, or IRL. Using the student's answers to questions the program shows which level the student answered with proficiency in word recognition and comprehension. These scores and data are specific; Ms. Kay can view the types of questions her students struggled with, such as vocabulary or decoding, so she can design lessons to teach to those skills necessary.

What do these data reports look like?

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