The Importance of Assessing Students Reading Ability Individually

May 28, 2012, Reading Horizons

The Importance of Assessing Students Reading Ability Individually

Guest Post by Jamie Menard, MA in Reading

Over the years, most elementary schools have made it a priority to assess students’ reading skills and, if students are below grade-level expectations, to administer more detailed assessments that help them figure out exactly what’s going on so that they can provide those students with appropriate interventions.

A vast majority of elementary schools have administered computer-based screening tools to their students. Many even have a team of Reading Specialists that assess students at the beginning, middle and end of the year benchmarks. Some elementary teachers are thankful that assistants and volunteers offer to administer both formal and informal assessments. This assistance results in teachers breathing a sigh of relief because it seems as though part of their heavy workload has become lighter. However, there is a possibility that teachers are in turn doing themselves a disservice and in turn, struggle to understand why their students are indeed below grade level.

After students are assessed, teachers receive data sheets that place their students into specific categories. The students are identified as below, at or above grade level. They are almost always given a number or score and sometimes even a color. Teachers often do not know how to successfully recognize the meanings of these scores and placements of their students. They are left with data and graphs and many questions. The teacher often wonders did the student read quickly and skip over words. If they are at grade level, did they comprehend the text they read? Were they able to read all grade-level sight words? Which phonics skills did they use to help them figure out unfamiliar words? Is the child aware of the silent –e or possibly even the adjacent vowel phonics rule? Teachers are left unequipped with essential information and have to begin their guided reading groups based off of these scores.

If a teacher takes the time to listen and assess each student they are able to learn about each and every one of their students and therefore can tailor their teaching in order to meet the needs of each student immediately. They can begin finding students that have similar needs and place them into small guided groups. Some information that teachers want to take note of would be whether or not the student…

  • is aware of print concepts such as tracking left to right (for beginning readers)
  • stops at punctuation/ending marks
  • recognizes when a word does not make sense
  • uses context clue
  • knows how to read the dialogue
  • uses decoding strategies and phonics skills (if not, give a phonics screener to determine which skill to teach)
  • can decode multi-syllabic words
  • self-corrects
  • maintains fluency

Before a classroom teacher can effectively begin tailoring their teaching to meet the needs of each and every student in their classroom, they have to take the time to listen to each of their readers. The internet offers a wide variety of ideas for obtaining valuable information about students reading abilities. Dedicated teachers want to be the best educator they can be for each child in their classroom. The time and preparation it takes to meet individually with every reader and zero in on their reading abilities are very great however, the end result is well worth it to both the students and the teacher.


Reading assessments drive instruction in the Reading Horizons elementary reading curriculumreading intervention program and structured literacy instruction.

Jamie Menard

Masters in Reading

Taught Kindergarten for 2 years

Taught Second Grade for 2 years

Worked as Reading Specialist for 4 years in grades K-4

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