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Assessment Strategies and Reading Profiles

Assessment to Instruction

Acronyms and Abbreviations

ABLE = Adult Basic Learning Examination

ABE = Adult Basic Education

ASE = Adult Secondary Education

GE = Grade Equivalent

CASAS = Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System

TABE = Tests of Adult Basic Education

The purpose of assessment of the components of reading is to inform instruction, to help answer the questions, "How do we know what to teach?" and "At what instructional level should we start?" ABE learners usually receive a Silent Reading Comprehension assessment such as the TABE, ABLE, or CASAS when they first enroll. While such assessments are necessary for approximate class placements—whether Beginner, Intermediate, or ASE—they tell the teacher little about different learners' specific instructional needs.

The most important principle of ASRP is that Silent Reading Comprehension scores alone do not tell you enough about your learners' abilities to teach them effectively!

Adult learners' uneven profiles of strengths and needs

Normally progressing K-12 readers usually have even profiles with nearly the same score in all of the components of reading. For example, average fourth graders usually have GE 4 Word Analysis, Word Recognition, Spelling, Fluency, Word Meaning (Vocabulary), and Silent Reading Comprehension. In sharp contrast, ABE and ASE learners are more likely to have uneven profiles with great differences across the components—more like those of children who are struggling in reading.

For example, two ABE learners with identical GE 4 scores in Silent Reading Comprehension can have significant differences in their component scores.  One might have Word Analysis, Word Recognition, Spelling, and oral reading Fluency scores at the GE 5-6 level, but Word Meaning knowledge at the GE 4 level, while another might have Word Analysis, Word Recognition, Spelling, and oral reading Fluency at the GE 2-4 level, but Word Meaning knowledge at the GE 6 level.

Find out more: Strucker, J. (1997) What silent reading scores alone can't tell you.

Assessment drives instruction

Assessing learners' mastery levels of reading components is the first step in planning their instruction. It stands to reason that it is difficult to help learners improve their reading if you don't know which components to focus on and what their instructional levels are in each component. But it is also important to look within each component.  Suppose that in giving a Word Analysis Inventory, a teacher finds out that some learners in an Intermediate class have not mastered the pronunciation of less-frequent vowel combinations such as /au/, /aw/, /ow/, etc. This tells the teacher exactly what to teach in Word Analysis and Word Recognition—vowel diphthongs. After teaching followed by opportunities for the learners to practice, the teacher notes whether these skills have been mastered through observations and informal quizzes (assessment). Then she or he resumes the cycle of teaching-assessment-teaching-assessment, etc.

On the following page, Three Reading Profiles, you will see how Silent Reading Comprehension scores alone do not give an indication of underlying weaknesses in other components that impede further progress.

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