TCRWP: Performance Assessments in Reading

I was totally fascinated by Mary Ehrenworth’s closing, “The Common Core Asks Us  to Teach Higher Level Comprehension: Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions” on Monday, July 1 on the first day of the Reading Institute.

We began with talking with a partner about assessments that were currently in use in our districts and then Mary began her presentation that was filled with student examples containing both writing and video evidence of reading comprehension.

Mary did caution us to not make running records be the “know all, be all” for every kind of assessment. They are perfect for matching students to books but perhaps not the tool that should be used for measuring growth in comprehension. And especially not to measure growth in comprehension that would be aligned with the Common Core.

In a nutshell, here is the framework Mary proposed:

Reading Performance Assessments

1.  Formal, grade and school wide Information and Argument writing (K-10)

2.  Use checklists to set goals and raise levels

3. Reading notebooks

4. Calibrate expectations across grade level and try making a checklist”

Mary wrote this list during the presentation on a piece of paper under the document camera complete with subheadings (no power point here) so errors in reporting would be mine.

A specific reference to Hattie, his book Visible Learning, and the power of specific feedback had me revisiting my notes from our #educoach book study in the summer of 2012.  How do students get that feedback?  I  now know that in writing, the learning progressions authored by Lucy Calkins and the TCWRP staff will provide just that feedback in the form of the checklists available.

Two more gems from Mary:

“Rubrics are for teachers; checklists are for students.”

“If you can say it on a checklist, kids can do it.  If you can’t say it on a checklist, kids cannot do it!”

The use of a Reader’s Notebook as a performance assessment was new to me.  Having specific goals in terms of checklists or a learning progression would enable both the teacher and the student to “see” progress in deepening comprehension.  Having targets would also ensure the likelihood of student success.  The premise is both exciting and exhilarating in the forward march to meet the increased demands under the Common Core.

Are you using a Reader’s Notebook as a performance assessment?  How might that be used to document increased student comprehension? (grades 3 and above)

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!


7 responses

  1. I have used Reader’s Notebook in various formats over the years. For years I used a “conversation” type notebook consisting of back and forth letters between myself and my students (ala Fountas and Pinnell). This past school year I moved away from that format to a more organized notebook with sections for notes, response, vocabulary, and book lists. By the end of the year I found that I was using the notebook as a primary source of assessment on students’ comprehension. I would create notebook assignments with specific format and content expectations. I would read the entries and conference with the students to make sure their writing reflected their true understanding. I would then know where a student had comprehension issues and when the student understood but had difficulty expressing that understanding in writing. My small group instruction could then focus on building observed strengths and addressing weaknesses. I think the addition of checklists designed for student growth would make the notebook more meaningful and measurable.

  2. Thanks, Cindy!
    I enjoyed hearing about your “progression of learning with your Reader’s Notebook.” My next blog is going to show a version of one way to consider assessing a Readers Notebook for student growth. I was checking on copyright and access today. While I am here at #tcrwp, I am losing track of the difference between the items that come with our reading and writing institute training, the Units of Study and what is available on the Teachers College website.

  3. Fran,
    I’m not sure that I agree with “rubrics are for teachers, checklists are for students”. Checklists are an easy way to verify that something is there, but rubrics provide a way to show “here’s where I am right now and this is what I need to do to improve”. What was the context?

    1. Barb,
      First of all thank you for commenting! (Gold STAR for you!)

      Secondly, thanks for your question about context. Here at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project – July Reading Institute, we are talking about learning progressions, rubrics, and checklists. My next post (two minutes ago) tells a bit about a “checklist” as it is being used here. The “content” from a rubric that was developed by teachers collaboratively studying student work has been re-written in student-friendly terms as a “student self-assessment status check.” Informally it is called a checklist.

      So when “Joey” looks at the checklist, uses the examples, and determines that he is a “2 star,” he already has an idea of what he needs to do to move to a “3 star.”

      Read that next post and see if that helps with your questions! Or let me know if I have created more questions!


  4. Thank you for your blog post. It has pushed me to think differently about how I will approach assessing comprehension. I teach a graduate reading assessment class and have always struggled with using the informal reading inventories as a means of assessing comprehension. I will continue to think about this and how I might help teachers understand and value the use of Reader’s Notebook for comprehension assessment.

    1. You are welcome and thanks for the comment!

      I hope you read the post on assessing Readers’ Notebooks. It was intended as an example of just one view of how instruction, assessment, and goal setting could be intertwined to seamlessly support students!

      I do still believe there is value in informal reading inventories – it always depends on how we plan to use the information gathered. Our time during school days is too precious to not be used wisely!

  5. […] 9. TCRWP: Performance Assessments in Reading […]

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