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Title Page

About the Book

Reading Success for All Students: Using Formative Assessment to Guide Instruction and Intervention features a full range of formative assessments designed to yield useful information about phonemic awareness, concepts of print, letter knowledge, phonics, high-frequency words, developmental spelling, fluency, syllabic analysis, vocabulary, and a range of comprehension skills. The assessments were constructed to yield a maximum of instructionally useful information. For example, the Phonics Inventory is geared to the scope and sequence of skills used in most programs so that the results of the assessment indicate which specific skills the student has learned and which need to be taught.

Accompanying each assessment are step-by-step explanations of researched-based teaching techniques that can be used to instruct the students in needed skills as revealed by the assessments. Instructional techniques are presented according to intensity. If students don't respond to the standard technique, the teacher can select a more intense technique or even a different approach from the sections entitled Suggestions for Students Still Having Difficulty.

Featured in the text are specialized teaching techniques designed to be successful with the most severely disabled learners. These include articulating sounds to foster phonemic awareness, using phonics to learn high-frequency (sight) words, using mnemonics to learn vowel correspondences, using mystery passages and macro cloze to improve predicting and inferring, and using manipulatives to build basic literal comprehension. Both instruction and assessment incorporate the Common Core State Standards.

About the Author

Thomas G. Gunning, a former middle school English and reading teacher and an elementary school reading consultant, is professor emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University, where he was department chairperson and director of the Reading Clinic. He is currently an adjunct professor in the Reading and Language Arts Department at Central Connecticut State University, where he teaches courses in assessment and intervention.

Gunning has been a consultant for elementary and middle schools in areas ranging from improving the core curriculum, implementing response to intervention, and planning programs for disabled readers. Trained as a Junior Great Books discussion leader, he has tried out this approach to reading instruction and intervention with students in an urban elementary school. Recently he served as a hands-on consultant for a Reading First school.

Gunning has conducted research on group reading inventories, vocabulary assessment, reading disabilities, intervention programs, readability, response to intervention, decoding processes and strategies, and literacy skills needed to cope with high-stakes tests.

Gunning is author of Reading Comprehension Boosters: 100 Lessons for Building Higher-Level Literacy for Grades 3–5 (Jossey-Bass). He has also written Creating Literacy Instruction for All Children, 7th Ed.; Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties, 4th Ed; Developing Higher-Level Literacy in All Students; and Closing the Literacy Gap, all published by Allyn & Bacon. He is coauthor with James Collins of Building Struggling Students' Higher Level Literacy: Practical Ideas, Powerful Solutions (International Reading Association), and author of Word Building, a Response to Intervention Program, designed for students with decoding problems (Phoenix Learning Resources & Galvin Publishing), and of a number of children's books, including Strange Mysteries (Dodd-Mead), Amazing Escapes (Dodd-Mead), and Dream Cars (Dillon).


While working as a hands-on consultant in an urban school, I was able to witness the power of using formative assessment to screen students, establish a starting point for instruction, monitor progress, and modify instruction as needed. When instruction was aligned with assessment, the results were breathtaking. For instance, because of formative assessment that revealed their needs and because of intervention that met those needs, the four lowest-achieving readers in first grade ended the year reading on, beyond, or almost on grade level according to both the Phonics Inventory, discussed in Chapter Two, which was used to monitor their progress, and the TerraNova, the school's standardized outcome measure. At the beginning of the year the students were able to read just one or two words. By year's end they demonstrated mastery of single-syllable phonics. Actually, it was a good year for all of the school's first graders. More than 80 percent of them were reading on grade level by year's end. Formative assessment and aligned instruction also work at higher levels. Using the Mystery Paragraphs Think Aloud and other techniques suggested by the results of these assessments, as explained in Chapter Eight, a tutor was able to transform a reluctant fifth grader whose comprehension was virtually nil into an enthusiastic reader whose comprehension was near perfect.

The key to success in these three instances was using instruments that yielded information that could be translated into instruction, and then monitoring student progress and modifying instruction as needed. Reading Success for All Students presents formative assessments in eight key areas: early reading skills, phonics, recognition of high-frequency words, syllabic and morphemic analysis, spelling, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The formative measures offered in this book were selected or constructed on the basis of their potential for yielding instructionally useful information.

In addition, assessment measures were selected on the basis of their capacity to assess a wide range of abilities. Many tests currently in use are written on grade level. However, the students in a typical class have a wide range of achievement, with a number reading below grade level and others reading above grade level. Tests were selected or modified so that there was provision for both below- and above-level readers. For instance, maze assessment, which is used as a group screening measure of basic comprehension, is generally administered on grade level. This book provides cumulative maze assessment, which contains passages below, above, and on grade level so that all students may be adequately assessed and their growth measured.

Dynamic Assessment

At times the data that assessments yield are not adequate. Reading Success for All Students offers suggestions for complementing testing with observations and dynamic assessment. In dynamic assessment, the student is provided with prompts or probes for items missed or is tested at lower levels. The basic idea is to determine what the student does know or can do so that existing knowledge and skills can be built on. For instance, a student might do poorly on a comprehension assessment that requires writing a constructed response, but might demonstrate adequate comprehension when given a multiple-choice test or when asked to retell a selection orally or answer questions. Dynamic assessment includes trial teaching. As the name suggests, trial teaching entails using gathered data to hypothesize what kinds of techniques or approaches might work with a student or group of students and then trying out those techniques. For instance, at the urban elementary school, I used a comprehension technique known as reciprocal teaching in which four key strategies—predicting, questioning, summarizing, and clarifying—are used to foster comprehension. Through the use of this technique I was able to determine students' strengths and weaknesses, and how discussions might be used to develop their comprehension. Suggestions for dynamic assessment are made throughout this book.

Purpose of Assessments

Tests perform four key functions: screening, monitoring, diagnosis, and outcome assessment. Screening tests typically survey a key skill and are generally brief so they can be taken in a minimum amount of time. Monitoring tests also assess a key skill area. They are generally given three times a year but are given more frequently to students judged to be at risk. Such students are monitored once a month or even more frequently, though research by Jenkins, Graff, and Miglioretti (2009) indicates that monitoring every three weeks or once a month is enough. The purpose of monitoring is to track and assess students' progress, but also to assess the school's program. As a rule of thumb, finding more than 20 percent of students to be at risk suggests deficiencies in the core program.

Screening tests may also be used for monitoring. Screening and benchmark tests (those monitoring tests given three times a year) typically assess grade-level skills in order to discern whether students are achieving at an adequate level. The benchmark tests are used to measure how many and which students are meeting the school's benchmarks and which students are falling behind. However, tests given monthly or more frequently, to monitor intervention, should be on the students' reading levels. Otherwise, growth cannot be adequately measured.

Outcome tests are used to measure overall literacy outcomes, usually at the end of the semester or year. State tests, district tests, and nationally standardized tests are typically used as outcome measures.

Curriculum-based tests are often used to screen students and monitor progress. They are actually not based on the curriculum. Rather, they are based on general indicators of progress. Tests of word reading and oral reading fluency and maze assessment are the most frequently used curriculum-based measures.

Efficient and Effective Assessment

Assessment should be efficient. Time taken away from instruction should be minimized. However, assessment also needs to be effective. It needs to yield information needed for instruction. One way of creating a program that is both efficient and effective is to start with the general and move to the specific as needed. For instance, start out with a general screening assessment and then provide specific assessments for students who need them. For example, a maze comprehension test might be used to screen all fourth graders. Students who do poorly could then be tested with an oral reading fluency measure to see if fluency or decoding skills are an issue. If students do poorly on that measure, they might then be given the Syllable Survey. However, observation and other informal measures might be used to provide additional information about the comprehension of students who do well on the maze assessment but poorly on higher-level comprehension tasks. First graders who do poorly on the Phonics Inventory might be given the Beginning Consonant Correspondences test and, if they do poorly on that, the Beginning Consonant Sounds test, which is a test of phonemic awareness. The idea is to provide the minimum of testing needed but as much assessment as required to discover students' specific needs. A chart of the assessments offered in this book is provided in

Assessment Chart

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Instructional Component

Of course the ultimate purpose of assessment is not to obtain data, no matter how valid they may be. The ultimate purpose is to improve students' achievement. Each assessment provided in this book is accompanied by suggestions for instructing the students. Because some of them have more difficulty learning than others, additional suggestions are made for students who continue to struggle. The suggestions presented are those that are research-based and/or judged by the author to be most effective. In addition, a number of commercial intervention programs are listed, none of which have any connection, financial or otherwise, with the author.

Both the instruction and the assessments offered here incorporate Common Core State Standards. At this point, the Standards provide the most widely accepted objectives for literacy. Each of the following chapters begins by listing the anchor Common Core State Standards covered in that chapter.