Reading specialists, rightfully so, want it all when it comes to testing for dyslexia. Your team wants an evidence-based, easy to administer, reliable tool that leads to action, not confusion for teachers. The core tension: over-assessing kids is a quick way to make them fall out of love with learning BUT taking assessment shortcuts could lead to instructional blind spots or a child being overlooked.
So that is the puzzle isn’t it: spend a bunch of time having the most trained reading specialists administer a bunch of different tests that produce “the crazy spreadsheet” OR go lean on the front end and leave your teachers with questions and student needs under-identified.
As EarlyBird thinks about how to strike this balance of efficiency, visibility, and effectiveness, here is a list of things that need to happen for dyslexia screeners to actually help teachers meet every kid’s needs:
- How long does it take? Yes, the amount of time a child is answering questions matters. What also matters is what that user experience is like. Is it awkward, intimidating, or boring? Some combination of those three?
- How does the data change instructional time within the curriculum? Does the data from the assessment inform your instruction in the classroom and result in time for specific content being reallocated based on the skills of your students? Does it save you time by not reteaching skills that have been secured and allow more time to address the skill deficiencies?
Scale and Specificity:
- Are you reaching every child? Dyslexia, and other reading challenges, are often difficult to identify. Researchers have highlighted the importance of not just what and how you screen, but also the “who”. Diagnostic assessments give us visibility but are limited in scope. Universal screeners get the scale, but oftentimes leave us with more questions. Your assessment approach needs to reach every child and lead to more action than wonderings about how to meet the needs highlighted.
- Are you getting a comprehensive look at each student? If so, how? In order to identify the research-based precursors to early reading struggles, educators must have a comprehensive understanding of each student. Is your screening approach comprehensive? If so, are you needing to use different assessment tools? Are those tools reliable AND how much time does it take to triangulate those different data sources?
Administration of Assessment:
- Who administers and scores the assessment? Historically, only educators with a specific background in administering and interpreting student assessment data have helped students go through comprehensive assessments. Does your current approach fall on one person? In our work around the country, too much falls on the plates of reading specialists too often.
- How do teachers access the assessment data? Do teachers have direct access to assessment data? Is it one person’s role to continually grant access to this data?
Post-Assessment: So now what?
- Who analyzes the data? Once the assessment data has been collected, who makes sense of it? How much should you weigh whether a child knew a particular letter sound or if they seemed to take an extra 15 seconds on the rapid automatized naming exercise you conducted? Is it a generic composite score for phonics and oral language comprehension, or is it more specific?
- How does that analysis get transmitted to classroom teachers? If the data your screener provides is giving greater insight into student needs, how is that knowledge getting shared with teachers? Are they well supported in terms of resources and professional learning to translate those insights into more effective instruction for individual students?
- What do teachers do with this understanding of their students? Is the data generated from the assessment easily connected to evidence-based practices and instructional resources that teachers can use to address these student needs?
- How are these results getting shared with families? Are parents sharing the results of these assessments with families? Is this another report a teacher has to create on their own or is it standardized? Are they accessible to family members and caregivers that may not be familiar with age-appropriate literacy milestones?
Is all this work being done in your district? If teachers are using valuable instructional time to assess, the assessment data need to inform instructional practices. Prescriptive instruction that is based on precise and skill-based data is doing it right the first time.
These are the considerations that we’ve taken into account to streamline a thorough, universal, yet efficient and action-oriented way to ensure that the reading needs of each child are understood and addressed as soon as possible.