How Reading Comprehension Assessments Uncover Literacy Strengths or Deficits

March 7, 2023

Reading Comprehension Assessments

More fourth graders are reading below grade-level proficiency than at or above these expectations. The Nation’s Report Card revealed that just one out of three fourth graders scored proficient or above in reading. While 2022 statistics show that 29 percent are reading at a Basic level, 37 percent of fourth graders scored at a Below Basic level.

Each year, parents receive reports related to state reading and mathematics assessments that reveal their child’s proficiency. However, understanding a child’s reading levels and proficiency throughout the year is important to deciphering patterns related to reading gains and/or deficits. Reading comprehension assessments can be used to help parents gain insight to their child’s ability to synthesize meaning and further facilitate learning and subject mastery.

Where can parents find reading comprehension assessments? The most common options for these assessments include:

  • Classroom-based assessments (separate from yearly state achievement tests)
  • Clinician assessments
  • Online reading assessments

What Types of Classroom-Based Assessments are Available?

While public schools participate in yearly standardized state assessments to gauge proficiency in core subjects, many schools also measure students’ reading levels and proficiency throughout the year via shorter computer-based assessments.

These online tests provide insight into each child’s reading ability and can help educators understand if children are making the appropriate gains and if they are reading at the expected benchmark levels. Districts might use different assessments to measure reading proficiency; however Star Reading is a popular assessment used by districts.

Star Reading is a timed test that measures a child’s reading level. When this assessment is used regularly, teachers can better understand reading gains and learning losses. In addition, data also shows where each child scores related to others in the same grade.

Schools typically send Star Reading reports home to help parents understand their child’s reading proficiency. Reports could include the child’s reading percentile, which denotes how a child’s reading relates to others in their grade. For example, a child that scores at the 60th percentile reads better than 50 percent of students at their grade level.

Reports also can include the child’s Lexile score and how this score has grown through the year. In some cases, children’s scores might fall compared to a previous test.

As with many tests, scores could be impacted by a child’s concentration, lack of sleep or even an illness. However, teachers look for patterns related to a child’s reading ability. While one bad score might be just a blip, continuously low scores could correlate to reading concerns.

Parents can use Star Reading reports or other assessment reports to better understand their child’s overall reading abilities. However, parents who are specifically concerned about comprehension might not be able to find data on the report related to comprehension abilities.

Many reading assessments are designed to measure overall proficiency which encompasses both decoding skills and comprehension. A child who scores below grade-level expectations could struggle with decoding, comprehension or both skills but test data might not reveal which struggle is the concern.

Reading Comprehension Assessments

Clinician Assessments and the Cost of Data

While many school districts assess reading skills throughout the year, parents might want more insight about their child’s struggles. Are they having difficulty with phonics and phonemics and decoding words? Do they struggle with explaining the meaning behind the text and gaining insight from what they read?

When teachers work with children in the classroom, they could notice that the child struggles to sound out words or they might realize that the child cannot answer questions about the story after they read. However, standardized tests utilized at school (like Star) might not help parents pinpoint a child’s specific reading struggle.

Parents who are concerned about a learning disorder or even a specific medical diagnosis that could be impacting their child’s learning can reach out to their child’s pediatrician for guidance. A medical exam could reveal hearing issues or even vision problems that could be impacting their ability to read. Some children could struggle to read and there might be no underlying medical cause. In addition, pediatricians could be the starting point for referrals to specialized clinicians and other doctors, too.

Parents could pursue additional testing via a clinician like a psychologist who can best assess specific learning disorders that could impact reading. For example, some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) could struggle with focus and concentration and this might impact their ability to synthesize information and facilitate understanding. Children with dyslexia, however, could struggle with decoding and letter identification.

Clinicians could utilize multiple tests to determine an underlying cause for learning and reading difficulties. These tests and data points could help clinicians to provide a specific diagnosis to help parents better understand why their child is struggling.

The downside for parents who seek outside assessments from clinicians is the cost of these assessments. For example, a neuropsychological exam involves numerous tests and is designed to measure data related to IQ, achievement, fine motor skills, memory, spatial awareness and more. While a neuropsych exam could be the gold-standard for helping parents to understand their child’s strengths and deficits that impact learning, these tests can cost thousands of dollars. Some insurance plans could cover part of this cost, but other plans might not cover these tests.

Neuropsychological examinations involve a battery of tests to help map out the entire picture of how each child’s mind works. Some children could struggle with memory, executive functioning or even fine motor skills that make it difficult to write. In a child’s report, psychologists will make recommendations related to ways that the school can best support the child in the classroom. Recommendations could include chunking information, using visual tools, etc.

For those who can afford the costs of this exam or who have insurance that helps cover the cost, the data from these tests can be invaluable. While these reports include IQ scores that provide an overall understanding of a child’s intelligence, parents also will be able to understand what aspects of learning could be more difficult for their child and why.

Parents might find that in order to fully assess their child’s abilities, they need to pay out of pocket for this type of exam. Not every parent has the means to invest in a neuropsychological exam, and some might simply be priced out of this assessment option.

Reading Comprehension Assessments

Online Reading Assessments

Not all parents will want to pursue or have the financial means to pursue testing options to assess their child’s reading, intellectual or other abilities. Parents might simply want to find a simple assessment that can help them understand their child’s reading ability and their child’s ability to comprehend what they read.

Where can parents find online reading assessments? There could be many reading programs that offer assessments to gauge a child’s reading level. However, parents might need to research the cost associated with these assessments.

For parents who don’t have extra money to spend on reading assessments, Readability offers a simple, quick and free reading assessment tool that can provide parents with a snapshot of their child’s reading proficiency. This tool requires access to a computer, tablet or smartphone that is equipped with a microphone.

To begin the assessment, parents will need to select their child’s grade level. The assessment tool will then prompt the child to read a portion of text aloud (thus, the need for a microphone). Readability designed the assessment to be quick; children can complete the reading assessment in about one minute.

Readability assesses a child’s reading proficiency based on their ability to read aloud the section of text that was provided. Readability will generate a report that explains the child’s reading level and their comprehension ability. Using the report, parents can gain insight about their child’s reading level and their ability to understand what they read.

In addition, Readability also provides parents with tips on how to improve their child’s reading ability. These tips can help parents better guide their child at home to facilitate understanding and help their child feel more confident as they read.

Parents also could decide to utilize Readability to help their child improve proficiency. Readability offers a free seven-day trial that allows parents to explore the program and all the features. Readability is designed with a built-in 24/7 reading tutor that helps guide reading lessons. The tutor features voice-recognition technology and learns the child’s voice; as children read stories aloud through the program, the tutor recognizes when the child struggles and provides help. At the end of each story, the tutor tests the child’s comprehension via a short quiz.

For parents who are concerned about costs related to assessments and/or tutoring, Readability provides an affordable option to help struggling readers gain proficiency. After the initial free trial period, a subscription to Readability only costs $19.99 per month; parents can use one subscription for up to three children.

In addition, the online assessment tool offered by Readability is completely free to everyone; parents can use this tool at no cost to better understand their child’s reading ability or to uncover a potential reading struggle. Visit Readability to take the assessment today.