10. Assessments

There are dozens of available assessments relevant to word reading and spelling skills, so this list is in no way comprehensive, but I hope includes useful information. Please let me know if you think I’ve omitted a really great test, particularly a cost-effective or free one.

The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessments cover phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency, and are freely available from a University of Oregon website. Designed for rapid screening and progress monitoring in primary schools.

Phonemic awareness assessments

Real word reading assessments

  • Burt Reading Test and Administration instructions: standardised, on Reading Reform Foundation website, for non-commercial use only.
  • MOTIF Castles and Coltheart 2: free, standardised, assesses both real and non-word reading, separates regularly spelt words from words containing unusual spellings.
  • Test of Word Reading Efficiency 2: standardised US test for individuals aged 6:0 to 24:11 years. Tests efficient reading of real words and pseudowords. Takes about 5 minutes. Great for identifying those who can decode but still need to work on their instant word recognition/fluency through lots of reading practice, if necessary first developing advanced phonemic awareness/phonemic proficiency. Australian norms for the TOWRE are here.
  • The UK Phonics Screening Check: criterion-referenced assessment for UK children in the middle of their second year of schooling which assesses their ability to read real words and pseudowords. Previous versions are available free online, here’s the 2017 version.
  • It should not be used as a substitute for a formal, standardised test, but there is an affordable, user-friendly app called Nessy Reading Challenge available for both iPad/iPhone and Android from which you can get an idea of a child’s reading ability, and suggested things to work on.

Pseudo-word reading assessments

  • MOTIF Castles and Coltheart 2: free, standardised, Australian, assesses both real and pseudo word reading in children aged 6:0 to 11:6 years. You must be a professional and create a MOTIF account to access it. Has an online version that writes its own report.
  • Diagnostic Reading Test for Nonwords: free, nonstandardised, you must be a professional to download it.
  • The Martin and Pratt Nonword Reading test sadly seems now to be out of print.
  • As mentioned above, the Test of Word Reading Efficiency 2: is a standardised US test for individuals aged 6:0 to 24:11 years, and includes pseudo-words. Takes about 5 minutes. Australian norms for the TOWRE are here.
  • The UK Phonics Screening Check: criterion-referenced assessment for UK children in the middle of their second year of schooling which assesses their ability to read real words and pseudo-words. Previous versions are available free online, here’s the 2017 version.

Real word spelling assessments

Non-word spelling assessments

Tests of spelling patterns outside words

Rapid Automatised Naming assessments

Difficulties with Rapid Automatised Naming are strongly associated with persistent reading difficulties, so worth knowing about.

Pseudo-word repetition assessment

More comprehensive assessments

The York Assessment of Reading Comprehension is a comprehensive, individually-administered reading test which has now been standardised in Australia. There is a version for primary school-aged children and another for secondary school age.

The free DIBELS assessments cover a range of literacy skills across the primary school years, and are widely used in the US.

The Abecedarian Reading Assessment is another fairly comprehensive assessment of early reading skills from the US which is available free online.

The Predictive Assessment of Reading is a high-quality standardised US screening tool designed to identify children needing extra help with reading. The Aimsweb and PALS screeners also have proper data to back them up.

Many standardised assessments of phonemic awareness and decoding/encoding skills are incorporated into major psychological or language tests, and you have to be a Psychologist or Speech Pathologist to use them, so I won’t go into their details here, but if you’re seeing a Psychologist or Speech Pathologist they will be able to tell you about each of the tests they use.

Many synthetic phonics programs have their own placement tests, for use in deciding where to start on their program, for example the Jolly Phonics Reading Assessment, and the Ridgehill Synthetic Phonics Placement Tests. If you’re investigating getting such a program, check whether it includes assessments like these.

Response To Intervention

Response To Intervention or RTI is an approach to identifying and assisting students with additional needs at school. It provides three tiers of assessment and intervention, with anyone struggling at a lower tier getting access to the next tier:

  1. Evidence-based classroom teaching, including screening for risk factors,
  2. Small group support and intervention for anyone struggling or considered “at risk”,
  3. Intensive individual support and intervention for anyone whose problems are severe/ongoing.

RTI is the best way to make sure that all children are able to achieve to their literacy potential. The US-based National Center on Response To Intervention website contains lots of information about how to implement an RTI approach.

2 thoughts on “10. Assessments

  1. Anne Italiano

    Hi Alison, just wandering why the MOTIF screeners have been crossed of your list. We are currently looking at screeners and want to make sure that we choose the right ones.
    Thanks for all your wonderful work!

    Reply
    1. alison Post author

      Hi Anne, sorry for slow reply, I couldn’t work out what you meant, but I finally realised that the links to the MOTIF tests on my “Assessments” page were broken because they changed their URLs. I’ve fixed them up now. I think they are great but they aren’t really intended as screening tools, I think you’re probably better off using something like DIBELS for screening. Maybe you didn’t see my recent blog post about screening: http://www.spelfabet.com.au/2016/04/is-the-new-victorian-learning-difficulties-screening-assessment-any-good

      Reply

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