This is an overview of the different reading assessments in my classroom and school:
Giving a Reading Assessment
James W. Becker
Seattle Pacific University
November 7th, 2011
The name of the reading assessment we use in our classroom is the Brigance Diagnostic Assessment of Basic Skills, which is a criterion referenced tool used for assessing speech, word recognition, oral reading, reading comprehension, word analysis, listening, writing, math, and measurement. The copyright for the revised version, which we use, is 1999, but there is a second version now available. As far as the actual origination date, Albert Brigance created the system in the 1970’s, but didn’t publish it until 1983.
The reading levels of the fourth grade student I was assessing were particularly low, so the tests were taking from the kindergarten to second grade levels. Due to these levels the assessment focused on phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding. In general the Brigance does a good job of identifying students’ strengths and weaknesses, but I feel the assessment itself has several strong and weak points. The procedures for this assessment are similar to other formal assessments I have used like the Woodcock Johnson III (WJIII) in which the tester reads from a scripted manual. The assessment come in a large green ring binder, and like the WJIII you set the binder up as a triangle and read from the back side (administrator) while the student reads from the front.
One difference I noticed from the WJIII was the Brigance is meant to be taken cyclically, so you can track the student’s progress over time. The manual has specific pencil or pen colors for each date of the assessment, so that you can easily point out which markings and results come from each assessment date. This is very beneficial when tracking progress for IEP goals in a special education classroom.
I assessed a fairly high functioning (academically) student with autism. The results are varied from the student I tested, but they correlate with him past achievement and match his disabilities. Section “C” of the Brigance is Listening Comprehension, and because my student is fairly low, so even though he is nine years old he only passes the 1st of 5 stages for Lower First Grade. In Section “D,” which assesses Word Recognition he scores higher than last April when he was rated as Preprimer (preschool), and now rates a Primer level with several correct answers in the Grade 1 level. This shows me that his vocabulary is improving, but still needs work to be near grade level. In the Sentence Memory section he actually scored in the 4th grade level, which indicates he does not have the short memory issues that some of my students have, and this is reinforced by his Sight Vocabulary score in where he knew 81 of the first 120 words. Last April in section “E,” Oral Reading, he scored a 26 of 33 correct in the Preprimer level, but this time he scored 32 of 33, so I tested him in Primer and up to Lower First Grade, in which he scored 26 or 33 correct. Once again this shows good improvement, but not near grade level. One of the greatest challenges concerning students with autism, like this student, is comprehension, and in Section “F,” Reading Comprehension, which you’ve stated in class is difficult to measure, but with this student he was asked to read lists of 5 words with 1 word that does not belong in the list, such as:
The lowest level for this test is Grade 1, and my student failed to pass even this level. I was somewhat surprised because he loves colors, and even uses vocabulary such as cyan and sepia, but his overall comprehension of what is being asked of him is probably the real problem with this test. Since there is no coaching for the assessment I feel the need to prepare him next time by mixing in like minded reading assignments. Hopefully this will give me a better understanding of his ability to comprehend the word differences instead of understanding the question. Also in section “F” is Passage Comprehension, where the student answers question related to a passage. Once again, as we discussed in your class, the questions can be confusing, but he still improved over the last assessment where he had not received 80% accuracy at the lowest level (Primer), this time he reached that level 3 of 5 times.
The level of cognition in section “G,” Word Analysis, is so above his level that we don’t administer this portion. This section begins with Auditory Discrimination, Initial Consonant Identification, and Substituting Sounds, and continues with Digraphs and Diphthongs and Phonetic Irregularities. Many of the subsequent were not taken as well to avoid frustration, and would have not told me any productive information about the student. Overall the test showed that the student had good memory skills though poor comprehension, and not just reading in general but understanding what was being asked of him. The problem with this is if I approach his lesson aimed at the assessment then it takes time away from other generalizable skills that he probably needs more.
Our classroom was quite noisy when I was giving the assessment, but there was an activity in the “pod” hallway so it was the only choice at the time. The students had a tough time concentrating, but it seemed he was more distracted by wanted to do fun activities like drawing. I ended up using some drawing time as a reward, and I feel I was able to get an accurate assessment of his skills. One of the pieces that I think is missing from the Brigance are sample questions, which are in the WJIII, and help the student better understand what is being asked in the following questions. Part of the difficulty with this assessment is that even though the description of the Brigance includes IEP oriented goals, I don’t think it has enough low level skills to show placement and improvement for many of my students. This student was one of my higher functioning students academically, and many of his skills were barely on the “radar,” while many tests weren’t even applicable.