Since my last post described a discussion on assessment in The Learning Network listserv about the Teaching/Learning Cycle, it’s logical to follow up with today’s post on the required training I attended today focused on assessment. An initiative in Texas this year is that all students who failed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test in reading as 6th graders last year will be assessed for fluency at the beginning of the year using an assessment instrument developed by the Texas Education Agency and The University of Texas.
We have been encouraged, though, to use this instrument to assess ALL of our students on an ongoing basis, which is excellent educational practice, and a new paradigm for many secondary teachers.
The assessment, for reporting and following the progress of students, mostly focuses on reading rate and accuracy. However, it is easily (and we are encouraged by TEA to do so)expanded in its usefulness to us as teachers by coding student miscues (well, they were called ERRORS in my training). There is also a comprehension component that consists of asking the student to recall what the text was mostly about. This component is rated holistically with a 0,1,2 or 3.
We were given a table which “diagnoses” student instructional needs based on the numerical result of the 3 sample fluency probe and the associated holistic comprehension rating. Based on results, we will choose instruction that targets decoding, fluency, or comprehension.
This kind of assessment is very new to secondary teachers. Since I taught in 3rd grade for many years, I had a lot of training in assessing student reading behaviors with running records and miscue analysis. I think that if used correctly, middle school reading/language arts teachers will find they can really inform their teaching.
I do have my reservations about the rigidity of the system, but I think it’s a move in the right direction for secondary language arts education in Texas. It’s also pretty prescriptive, but as a scaffold for teachers new to the idea of basing instruction on assessment, it’s a good start!