What Our Spring Assessments Tell Us

How did we get to May?  Though this time of year is busy, spring gives us the opportunity to look back while planning forward.  These last weeks of school are the perfect time to gather our community to note the growth we have made across the year.  When we reflect on the books we have read, the writing we have done, and the new learning we have accomplished across the year, we can find much to celebrate.  Much of this work is done by our students as they consider all they have accomplished in the year, but we also carve out time to sit beside our literacy learners for more formal assessments.  In our district, we utilize Fountas & Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment to look at the growth our readers have made.

Whether in my role as a classroom teacher, reading support teacher, or literacy coach, looking at these end of year assessments can provide an opportunity to:

  1. Look at individual student progress.  Of course, these assessments will help me to notice the growth of the readers I have worked with across the year.  We want to be able to show that each student has made the expected amount of growth.  It isn’t just the text level that can suggest growth, but the evidence that readers have grown in their ability to read new to text, to think about the story, to make inferences, and to notice the moves the author makes to help shape meaning.  Evidence can be found in the way they talk and write about their reading.
  2. Note the strengths of the learning community.  When assessing readers, I like to look for patterns across my students.  Often the strengths I can note across the classroom or group of students can speak to the strengths of instruction and learning opportunities afforded to readers.  What has worked?  What do I want to make sure I continue in the following year?
  3. Note the similar challenges for readers.  When I find I am making the same “next step” comments across readers, I take the time to reflect on my instruction.  Is there a way that I can improve this in the following year?  What changes might I need to consider?  Which standards, strategies, or understanding need more thoughtful attention?
  4. Provide information for the next year’s teacher.  By taking the time to thoughtfully analyze the running record and make comments that might help next year’s teachers, we can provide information that might help guide the child’s teacher in the first six weeks of school.

As we complete our final assessments, we need to think about the information that would be most helpful to the teacher who will be supporting this student in the following year.  The better the notes we take, the more we reflect on the progress across the year, the more time we take to analyze the running records, the better the first weeks of school can be for these readers in their new communities.  It can be tempting to push students to higher levels at this time of year.  This can create challenges for next year’s teacher.  When I find myself wanting to move students up into the following year’s expected text levels, I like to find a colleague teaching that grade level to provide some input.  The building’s literacy coach can also be of help in these situations.

Sometimes we get busy and our end of year assessments become something we want to check off our list.  They can easily end up in a stack or quickly stuffed into yellow folders.  Taking the time to look for patterns across readers can help us to grow our instruction in the following year.  When we see strengths across our readers, to what do we attribute those strengths?  When we see areas that were difficult for our readers, what might we change in the following year to help our readers to be more independent in this strategy or thinking?  End of year assessments provide the opportunity to look back — AND plan forward.

Cathy Mere, Elementary Literacy Instructional Leader, Hilliard City Schools. Cathy has taught grades K-6, worked as a Reading Recovery and reading support teacher, and served as a literacy coach. She believes in the power of children to shape, not just our future but, our today. She writes at Reflect and Refine, Merely Day by Day, and Choice Literacy.