Reading and Language Arts assessments

Classroom reading assessments

Passage considerations

  • Rigor and complexity appropriate for current students
    * Measure learning in the context of current instruction and content knowledge
    * Students have the background knowledge to understand reading

Passages in context with instruction and background knowledge will more accurately measure student performance. If not, the resulting data will provide insufficient insight into learning, especially for English learners and students struggling reading classroom content.

Long passages rush completion

If the reading load is too much, students will rush to finish the assessment.

Balance text complexity

A balance of grade level text complexity best measures student achievement. If a passage pushes the boundary of complexity, look for indicators within the passage to help plan future instruction. Is the reading hard, but fair and using the appropriate content matter?

Make reading worth the student’s time

The length of the passage justifies the number of items used to assess the reading

Too many items exhaust a passage.

Longer passages support more questions, but using too many items will over-burden the text. A clue for overuse is cueing, one question helps a student answer another question.

Passages support more than one standard

Appropriate vocabulary in passages and items.
The passage mix should challenge students, but not all reading has to be complex. Challenging and complex passages will lower performance for students struggling with grade level reading.

Reader skills, characteristics, and text


Reader skills

  • Literacy skills in content areas, including language arts
  • Ability to analyze text for structure and style
  • Determine an author’s purpose
  • Understand the intended audience for the text
  • Balance the reader’s skill and the readability of the text
  • Students comprehension levels with similar text complexity

Characteristics of text

  • Structure of text
  • Arrangement of ideas
  • Amount of distracting information and unity of text
  • Logical connection of events
  • Background knowledge of author’s intended audience

Match readers with text

  • Student engagement levels in reading for pleasure and reading to learn
  • Task teacher expects to be completed with text
  • Comprehension success with similar text complexity
  • Scaffold and support system in place to assist student success
  • Formative assessment models that increase complexity in appropriate increments
  • Instructional practice to increase complexity levels over time with students

Source: Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading Frey, Fisher, and Lapp

Help struggling content area readers


Good habits for struggling readers

Reading independence happens when students purposely use their reading skills to enhance learning.

What skills do our students need to independently learn from reading informational text?

  • Basic reading skills to comprehend text
  • A vocabulary to support learning from content area reading
  • Approach text based on common subject area text structure
  • Able to read age-appropriate text fluently
  • Understand the reasons for using text to learn
  • Background knowledge to support meaning from the text

Prepare struggling readers for content area reading

  • Preview key concepts or vocabulary
  • Plan pre-read discussions
  • Write pre and post reading to target key learning
  • Read complex text in chunks to scaffold learning and check for understanding
  • Practice making inferences from text at central learning points
  • Model and practice thinking techniques while students are using complex text
  • Teach, model, and practice word strategies
  • Implement targeted vocabulary curriculum along with increased reading time