Benchmark Assessment: often wrong

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It’s the end of the school year in Australia, so children are getting their end-of-year reports.

Many Australian schools use the American Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) to evaluate reading skills, but a new American Public Media (APM) report says it fails to identify most struggling readers.

If teachers rely on the BAS results, they will be advising many parents not to worry about their children’s reading skills, though there’s good reason to be concerned.

If you’re in this situation, please seek more reliable and valid assessment. Early intervention is highly effective, and ‘late bloomers’ are more likely to wilt and suffer than catch up.

There are plenty of more cost-effective, efficient, reliable, valid literacy skill assessments available for school use. The excellent, Australian Reading Science in Schools website has an assessment list you can download here. Chances are that teachers using the BAS don’t know about researchers’ adverse findings on it, or good alternatives. Do them a favour, send them the APM report and RSS assessment list.

If your school can’t provide valid, reliable reading/spelling assessment, try asking local Speech Pathologists, Educational and Developmental Psychologists or Specialist Educators for a second opinion. Very young kids can do quite a lot of learning in the summer holidays with good professional guidance and/or by attending programs like our holiday groups. The sooner they catch up with peers, the happier they’ll be in 2024.


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