February's 28 days makes this month fly by so fast, especially if those days are filled with teaching, testing, and conferencing with parents!
As promised, I am continuing a review of 3 technology tools widely used in Jordan School District. Today I am writing about Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI). SRI is a research-based, computer-adaptive assessment for grades K-12. This instrument measures students’ levels of reading comprehension, and results are reported in terms of a Lexile measurement that gauges both reader ability and text difficulty on the same scale. (Note: Many details about Scholastic Reading Inventory can be found at JSD's Language Arts website.
The purpose of this posting, however, is to explain why and how our district adopted this program and to share a few suggestions about using SRI data. As secondary literacy concerns worked their way to the forefront, teachers and administrators raised several questions about the assessment of reading comprehension. While the Iowa Basic Skills Test and the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test (UBSCT) measure reading comprehension, the results of these tests are slow in coming. Teachers wishing to identify students with comprehension difficulties would have to painstakingly search through student files from years past to find results.
While there are other excellent assessment tools available to screen students, they are often time consuming and require one-on-one administration. Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) is an example. This excellent program serves as an informal assessment that goes beyond comprehension to measure word identification and fluency. It definitely has a place in assessing students as an additional measurement. Unfortunately, it takes weeks to administer the QRI assessment to all incoming seventh graders, for example, and several more to assess their progress later in the year.
These concerns demanded a program that could be used quickly and easily with numerous students 2 or 3 times a year. While such a program did not need to be diagnostic in nature, it needed to identify students whose reading comprehension was below grade level in order to determine which ones could benefit from reading intervention.
To decide which available program would work the best for Jordan School District schools, a task force researched the possibilities, requested proposals from those companies, and then studied the proposals. The committee decided to invest in Scholastic Reading Inventory for several reasons, but the main ones include the following:
- Easy to administer
- Ability to progress-monitor
- Computer-based and computer-adaptive - depending upon students' responses, questions become easier or more difficult
- Data disaggregated in multiple ways to satisfy many needs
- Most cost-effective
Having the tool to help create a picture of readers' strengths and weaknesses naturally forces teachers to ask, "What should I do with this information?" Our district decided we needed to promote 8 strategies that teachers in all content areas could teach their students. Because all students are enrolled in English classes, language arts teachers administer the SRI assessments; therefore the lead teachers were invited back to two follow-up meetings to learn about or review the comprehension framework of 8 comprehension strategies. The strategies are as follows:
- Access and build background knowledge
- Make Inferences
- Monitor Understanding
- Determine Importance
The last leg of this journey is to help teachers examine the SRI data and then differentiate their instruction to support striving and advanced readers. While language arts teachers oversee the assessment process, the data should be shared with all teachers so that they, too, can adjust their instruction to support all students. Content area literacy professional development classes were available this past year to serve this purpose. During the 2009-10 school year, workshops that focus upon differentiated instruction will be offered.
I can't sign off without mentioning one concern. The Lexile measurement represents a range in ability, and it can serve as a guide for teachers in choosing reading materials for whole or small group discussion. We should not insist that students choose only those books within that Lexile range for their independent reading. Such an insistence can remove much of the pleasure from reading. A good non-example presented to us involved a teacher who steered a talented reader away from the Harry Potter novels as being too far below that student's abilities. Later on that student remarked about the loss he felt in not being part of the phenomenon that accompanied that series.
Hopefully, this posting that took forever to complete will help answer that ever-present question: Why are we doing this?