Reading assessment: Testing your child’s instructional reading level
Is your child reading at grade level? If your child happens to attend a school that conducts periodic reading assessments, then you may already know at which level he or she is reading. Knowing your child’s reading level is key to choosing appropriate reading material for the child, as well as determining whether he or she needs remediation or is ready for advanced texts.
Various formal and informal methods may be used for reading assessment. Formal tests determine the student’s accuracy, fluency, speed and comprehension based on standardized measures. These tests compare the student’s results against those of other students who have previously taken the same tests (norm-referenced) or against a set performance or criteria (criterion-referenced). On the other hand, informal tests or informal reading inventories (IRI) use graded word lists and/or passages to assess fluency, accuracy, and comprehension. IRIs are individually administered, and reading scores are assigned to determine the child’s independent, instructional, and frustration reading levels.
- Independent reading level – At this level, the student can read orally with no more than one word-recognition error per 100 words of text and show 95-100 percent accuracy on comprehension questions about the story. The student could read the material on his own with ease.
- Instructional reading level – A student at this level can read with 2-5 word recognition errors in 100 words of text and demonstrate at least 80 percent comprehension of the story. With help and guidance from the teacher, the student is able to make the maximum progress in terms of vocabulary and comprehension.
- Frustration reading level – Reading at frustration level is characterized by more than 5 word recognition errors per 100 words of text and comprehension and below 70 percent accuracy on comprehension-related questions. At this level, the student requires moderate to intensive support from the teacher. Materials are too challenging that reading becomes a frustrating experience.
Professionals recommend that students are taught at their instructional reading level, where they can use word-recognition techniques and context clues to stretch their thinking abilities. With the right materials and adequate support from the teacher, the student will begin to understand and enjoy more complicated and meaningful texts.
There are several informal reading assessment tools available online that you can use to assess your child’s reading level. Here are three of them:
San Diego Quick Assessment of Reading Ability (SDQA)
This test measures the recognition of words out of context, i.e. the word lists are not presented as part of a sentence or story. This test consists of 13 lists of words categorized by grade level, from K to 11 . While research has confirmed that the SDQA provides a fairly accurate assessment of a student’s ability to read grade-level material, it is not a substitute for a comprehensive evaluation. You may download the test and instructions for administration and scoring here.
K-12 Placement Tests
K-12, a provider of online education programs and curricula, has educational placement tests for language arts/English. The tests include reading assessments, language skills assessments, and writing tests or Grades K-Middle School.
The National Right to Read Foundation (NRFF)
The NRRF’s reading competency test consists of two parts. The first part measures phonics knowledge and is intended for students who have completed 2nd Grade. The second part is intended to test grade level reading ability.