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Reading assessment program promotes student success

Last spring teachers at St. Croix Central Elementary School received training on a new reading assessment system. This fall the assessment program was put into action and has been showing positive results since.

All kindergarten through fifth grade, and one sixth grade class, have been using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. The assessment is used initially for placement purposes, but is also used throughout the school year to monitor student progress.

Two to three times a year the reading assessment is administered during a one-on-one conference with a teacher and student.

"The assessment takes about 20-30 minutes and involves students reading aloud and talking about their reading," said Shirley Arneson, teaching and learning director.

The assessment is composed of 26 levels of difficulty corresponding to the letters of the alphabet with A being the easiest level and Z being the most challenging.

"The assessment system determines three levels of reading: student's independent reading level, their instructional reading level and recommended placement level," Arneson said.

According to the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, "Knowing these reading levels for each student helps teachers group students for reading instruction, select texts that will be productive for a student's instruction, plan efficient and effective instruction and identify students who need intervention and extra help."

Arneson said the teachers have appreciated the system in their classrooms, as they feel they know their students' strong skills and also those skills that need improvement. The assessments have helped teachers instruct students based on each students individual needs.

"Some students need skills revisited or taught in a different way," Arneson said.

The assessments have also helped teachers create small reading groups, of students at similar reading levels.

Arneson said the groups enhance the students' reading experience as they often "check each other for understanding (of the readings) and go beyond the text," talking about feelings and experiences.


"The results are that teachers have a better understanding of the reading level of all their students and can better guide their reading instruction to meet each student's needs more accurately," said Arneson.

The Fountas Pinnell manual highlights important components for students' success in reading. "Several principles are important to consider; students learn by talking, students need to process a large amount of written language, the ability to read and comprehend texts is expanded through talking and writing, and learning deepen when students engage in reading, talking and writing about texts across many different instructional contexts."

"The assessment and implementation of guided reading has allowed teachers to focus more fully on those principles," said Arneson.

Students are able to do reading at their own level and are given more time to talk and write about their reading.

Arneson said the teachers and students have conferences to go over reading goals and discuss what areas of reading students feel they need to work on.

Arneson said the teachers aren't the only ones "excited" about the new reading program.

"Students are enjoying reading more since they are successful and are more involved in choosing what they read," she said.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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