The Importance of Early Screening and Identification
As we know, children enter school with a variety of experiences and different degrees of readiness. The development of basic reading skills is one of the primary goals of elementary education. Yet, 65% of U.S. fourth graders are not reading at a proficient level, and there has been no change in these results for more than 25 years. Among students from low socio-economic backgrounds, this number is as high as 80%. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the development and growth of basic reading skills. Dyslexia screeners and early literacy screeners can empower districts to make a difference for students at the earliest stages of their education, when intervention can be most successful.
Thirty-nine states now mandate screening for dyslexia. However, finding an appropriate early literacy assessment to screen pre-readers for reading difficulties can be very challenging, and many are not able to screen effectively and provide educators with the data needed to drive instruction. There are a number of factors to consider when evaluating tools for dyslexia and early literacy screening.
Evaluating Your Early Literacy Screener
As with other district and school tools and resources, it’s important to conduct an audit of your early literacy screener on a regular basis to understand whether or not it is helping to meet your school and district literacy goals for all students. Selecting a literacy screening tool for your youngest student population is oftentimes exceptionally challenging, because many tools require students to be of a certain reading ability in order to effectively measure their skills.
Below are 8 key things to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of your digital early literacy assessment:
Is the screening assessment evidence-based? Has there been research conducted to inform its development? Is the test valid and reliable? With that in mind, did the validation occur in school settings with diverse and representative populations?
2. Comprehensive skill measurement
Does the assessment measure a comprehensive set of early literacy skills? Does it include assessments for areas most predictive of reading success, including phonological awareness, sound symbol correspondence, rapid automatized naming (RAN), and oral language comprehension? Does the data provide scores on each individual subtest area rather than one composite score?
3. Applicable for all students
If you are assessing younger students, can the screener be used by both readers and pre-readers? Can the data be used by teachers to understand the reading profiles of all of their students, not just those who are already reading or have already learned specific skills?
4. Screening administration
Is the screener easy to administer? How much time does it take to assess each student? How much time does it take to test an entire classroom? Does the assessment need to be administered one-on-one by a teacher or other adult, or can students self-administer it with oversight from an adult?
5. Student engagement and motivation
Is the screener engaging and motivating for children? Is it age appropriate? Is the assessment gamified for the student? Will it hold the child’s attention from beginning to end?
6. Screening efficiency
Is the test efficient? Does it employ tools such as voice recognition technology or auto-scoring to save teachers or educators who are performing the test administration time, remove bias and administrator fatigue, and improve accuracy and consistency of scoring?
7. Comprehensive data collection
Does it produce comprehensive data that is easy for teachers and administrators to access, analyze, and act upon? Is the data collected and stored for each sub skill area or does it provide one composite score?
8. Tied to practical recommendations
Does the tool connect teachers to next steps and evidence-based resources? Does the tool provide recommended and customized interventions based on each student’s literacy profile?
What to do if you’ve identified a gap
Now that you’ve asked yourself these questions and conducted an audit of your current digital literacy assessments, you may have identified gaps that are not currently being met by your current tools.
Thirty-nine states now mandate screening for dyslexia. It may be helpful to explore your state’s requirements for dyslexia screening and available funding you may be eligible to receive. Based on that information you may want to conduct further fact finding about your current tools and meet with your school or district’s literacy team to have a discussion about how you are addressing these gaps for the upcoming school year and as now is the time to consider any potential adjustments for purchasing tools next school year.
When you are able to effectively identify early literacy skills, you can provide the appropriate intervention earlier for your students.
If you’re interested in learning more about how EarlyBird can support your school or district’s literacy goals, contact us today.