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Assessment Strategies and Reading Profiles

About Assessments

Assessments in adult education programs

Teacher leaning over assessing student

Most publically-funded ABE programs pre-test learners in Silent Reading Comprehension when they first enroll and post-test learners with the same test upon completion of a class, semester, or academic year. Among the most common tests used in adult education programs are the Tests of Adult Basic Education (TABE), the Adult Basic Learning Examination (ABLE), and the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS).

Programs use the initial test scores to place learners in appropriate classes, and they use pre/post comparisons to document progress. States also forward learners' pre- and post-test scores to the National Reporting System.

Some test concepts

Standardized tests are those that are administered and scored according to set procedures. There is often a script for examiners to follow when administering the test. Tests are called "standardized" because there are definite standards for their administration. This minimizes the effect that differences among examiners may have on the learner's test performance.

Types of Standardized TestsRR

  • Norm-Referenced Tests
    Developers of norm-referenced tests administer their assessment to a large number of people (the reference or norming group) in order to assess the test's reliability and to find the range of performance on a particular ability. Averages of the reference group's scores give a base to which examiners can compare results of their examinees. If a learner scores below the average for the norming group, then she/he is said to be below average in the ability being tested; if the learner scores above the average for the reference group, he/she has greater than average skill on the ability being tested. With a norm-referenced test, a learner's ability is compared to that of others. The Tests of Adult Basic Education (TABE) and the Adult Basic Learning Examination (ABLE) are examples of widely used norm-referenced tests.
  • Criterion-Referenced Tests
    Developers of criterion-referenced tests set absolute levels of performance (criteria) to indicate a learner's knowledge and skill. Learners are not compared to any norming group; a single grade equivalent or percentage correct needed to indicate mastery is established for all. The curriculum follows the requirements of the test.
  • Competency-Based Education and Testing
    In competency-based education, the curriculum is set out as a series of competencies needed to accomplish a particular educational objective. A learner's progress on a competency is assessed with a criterion-referenced test. For example, word attack instruction may be organized into units composed of specific letter and syllable combinations to be mastered. Tests are administered to assess a learner's competency of the material taught. The Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS) is an example of a competency-based curriculum in which many separate skills of reading progress, for example, are identified and taught and a learner's skill level evaluated.
  • Curriculum-Based Assessments
    A curriculum-based assessment tests what is taught in a particular curriculum. In criterion-referenced tests, curriculum is developed to "teach to the test"; in curriculum-based assessment, the curriculum comes first and assessments, often teacher-constructed, test whether students have learned the material.

Alternative assessments

Interviews that give information about a learner's literacy activities at home or work, self evaluations of ability, and teacher reports all give information about a learner's progress. (You can go to the Learner Questionnaire on this site for more information.)

Portfolio development and evaluation is another common assessment tool. A learner's work is collected and periodically assessed by the learner, class members, and instructors. Informal assessments are made continuously as students participate in class; listening to a learner read tells a lot about progress in word identification, rate, and Fluency.

Ongoing assessments of instruction

Teachers assess continuously through informal tests and learners' class responses. This ongoing assessment is necessary not only to find out what needs to be taught, but also to make certain that skills have been learned well enough. Teachers often make the mistake of being satisfied that learners have absorbed some instruction after testing only shortly after instruction has been given. Assessment of skills that have been taught needs to be continuous and spiraled, returning to previous lessons to make sure learners have integrated old learning into new.

For example, you have taught silent e in one-syllable words and now learners are able to read a list of those words. Can they apply the understanding to those words in text? When you teach compound words, do they recognize silent e words? It is often necessary to refresh a formerly-learned concept until it is thoroughly mastered—and the need to circle back can be indicated with ongoing assessments of the concepts and skills that have been presented.

To get more information about tests you can use in your program, please visit the Published Tests.