Assessing reading with standardized tests

A response to the Misunderstood Activity
created by Pam Millett (@millettpam)

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My students (who are classroom teachers themselves) often balk at the idea of using standardized tests (“it’s not fair, it’s too rigid, there isn’t only one right answer, I know they could do better if I was allowed to help them, I don’t want to label children”). So I try to use the terms “frustration, instructional and independent levels”, which I explain in terms of how you get your driver’s license. “Frustration level” is a G1 driver (or reader) – they have some basic knowledge but there’s no way they could pass an actual road test yet. “Instructional level” is a G2 driver (someone who is getting ready to do their road test or has just passed it) – they still need some support, but they’re getting there. Even when they get their G2, they’re not quite operating at “independent level” because there are still things they’re not allowed to do (like drink or drive alone after midnight). When they get their full G license, they’re at an independent level, you can expect them to drive anywhere, at any time, with no help. Standardized testing is looking to see what level they can perform at full G competency (on reading or math or whatever), so they have to be able to do everything independently, with no suggestions or help from you. There’s a score involved, yes, but the score helps you understand that you might have a grade 3 student who can only read kindergarten level material without any help (ie they haven’t even passed their G1), when most of the rest of the grade 3 students are “G2” readers.

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