What is the Point of Literacy Screening Tests?

April 25, 2023

Literacy Screening Tests

Many teachers complain of needing to teach for the test. The ‘test’ is the year-end standardized achievement test issued by the state that measures every student’s level of proficiency related to specific subjects. Throughout the year, teachers also screen students related to math and reading to further understand their progress related to grade-level expectations.

For children (and parents), it might seem like there are constant tests to assess progress and mastery. Many schools are vigilant about testing students related to reading proficiency. What is the point of literacy screening tests? Are they beneficial?

Why Schools Test Throughout the Year

Shanahan on Literacy discusses the prevalence of literacy assessments and whether or not these assessments help students become better readers. Shanahan explains that “…The only reason to test someone is to find out something that you don’t know. If you know students are struggling with decoding, testing them to prove it doesn’t add much.”

While these assessments help educators and districts understand a child’s current reading level and proficiency, the tests alone cannot make a child a better reader. Instead, the assessments provide data points that can help the district assess overall proficiency for the child, across grade levels, and throughout the district, too.

As Shanahan noted, though, if a teacher already identifies that a child is struggling to read at grade level, then these assessments likely won’t reveal anything new or aid the child’s struggle. However, some tests can show if a child has fallen further behind and has gone from being watched by the district to being in need of more immediate intervention.

Literacy Screening Tests

What Do Reading Assessments Measure?

School districts might utilize different reading assessments. Some use Star Reading, which is a timed reading assessment. Star Reading typically includes a reading report that is sent home to parents. The report typically includes the following data points:

  • Reading level
  • Reading growth
  • Percentile rank

The reading level can be denoted by grade level or reports also could include a Lexile number that correlates to the level. Star Reports will often include a reading level as the grade level and the month of the grade. For example, a reading level of 5.6 correlates to the sixth month of fifth grade. This can help parents better understand how their child reads according to their grade level.

Star Reading reports also could include reading growth. This shows growth from test to test. Some students could have negative growth if they scored lower than the previous test. In addition, Star Reading tests could show parents their child’s reading score history from previous grades to further illustrate how their reading ability has grown from year to year.

The percentile rank also could be an included data point. This shows how the child scored in relation to those in the same grade. A child who scores in the 50th percentile reads better than half of the students in their grade; this could be considered an average score.

Literacy Screening Tests

What to Do If Children Score Low on Assessments

Parents might feel as though they are inundated to test reports and data points for their child.  Some parents, though, might feel the opposite. Not all districts might send home reports related to a child’s literacy progress; some parents might be taken by surprise when they realize that their child is struggling.

End-of-year state assessments are communicated to parents; these scores also are sent home. Parents might discover their child only reads at a basic level or even below basic. Unfortunately, the majority of fourth graders in the United States read at a less than proficient level; those who score proficient or above are in the minority.

Some children might not score low enough on state assessments to warrant intervention. These children might be reading below the proficient level but aren’t so far behind that they require additional classroom help or specialized assistance.

What can parents do if their child scores low on assessments? One low score could simply be related to the child having an ‘off’ day, being distracted or even feeling under the weather. Some children who have ADHD might need medication to help them focus; if they miss a dose of their medication and test that day, their scores could be lower because they struggled to concentrate.

Parents might wait and see how their child performs on the next test. However, if a child is consistently reading below grade level or doesn’t seem to be growing in their reading ability, parents might decide to find additional reading help.

Parents could work with their child at home. They might read with their child and help them with word decoding skills. If their child struggles with comprehension, parents might give their child visual cues like a reading comprehension bookmark that reminds them to think about specific prompts as they read. In addition, sticky notes also could help children make notes as they read.

Some children need more help than parents can provide. A reading tutor might be too expensive for some parents. Many tutors charge by the hour and some might require a minimum amount of sessions for the month. Not all parents can afford this additional educational cost.

Technology can help bridge the gap between struggling readers and those who are proficient. There are many apps that are designed to help children with phonics and reading comprehension, too. Some apps are even designed to tutor a child in reading.

A Reading Tutoring App Can Help a Child Boost Fluency and Confidence.

Readability is a reading tutoring app that can be used at home. Readability is designed to provide children with a 24/7 reading tutor; the app includes a built-in AI tutor that is programmed with voice recognition software. The tutor learns the child’s voice and the intuitive voice-recognition programming allows it to provide feedback and encouragement.

Children should begin Readability at one reading level below their current level. This helps children feel more confident using the program. At each reading level, children have access to a library of books. They read these books aloud; as children read, the tutor measures their reading fluency. At the end of each book, the tutor assesses the child’s comprehension via a reading quiz focused on the book.

Some reading programs let children move to a harder level once they complete a certain number of reading tasks or assignments. However, with Readability, children only advance to a more difficult reading level when they demonstrate proficiency related to both reading fluency and comprehension.

Word recognition and vocabulary knowledge also are important to the reading journey. Every book in Readability includes a vocabulary list. Children also can tap any word in a story to hear the word’s definition or hear it used in a sentence. All vocabulary words—including discovered words—are included in a comprehensive vocabulary words bank. Children can review their vocabulary words whenever they want.

How do parents know that their child is gaining proficiency through the program? Parents have a private portal in the Readability program that displays their child’s reading data. In this portal, parents can review their child’s current reading level, their comprehension mastery and their reading fluency (measured in words read per minute). This data can be collated into a report that can be sent to their child’s teacher.

Parents who are researching options for helping their child gain reading confidence and hit grade-level literacy benchmarks can explore the Readability program. Sign up for a free seven-day trial period to discover the program’s features and meet the AI tutor.