The Purpose of Reading Assessments and Monitoring

Has anyone seen the LifeLock commercials on television where a group of masked robbers smash their way into a bank with baseball bats?  Everyone drops to the ground in fear except for a security guard who just stands there.  The customers in the bank tell him to do something about the robbers, but he explains that he is only there to “monitor” the bank for robberies, not to actually do anything about them.  Another LifeLock ad shows a dentist diagnosing a patient with a terrible cavity and then doing nothing.  Once again, the dentist just “monitors” the problem.  The catch phrase is, “LifeLock doesn’t believe in just monitoring problems without fixing them.”  Now some security guards and dentists might be insulted by the ads, but I think they are brilliant and insightful!  We monitor a problem in order to fix it, not merely to “monitor.”  Unfortunately, in our schools, I have frequently seen reading assessments done regularly on children to “monitor” progress, without any subsequent adjustments being made to address underlying issues.

 The purpose of assessments and monitoring progress is to drive instruction, to see how effective the instruction has been, and then reflect, diagnose, and either stay the course or change course based on what the information reveals.  If assessments were used appropriately, problems would be discovered early and an intervention would be given.  The intervention should be aligned to the actual skill deficit.  The assessment should be able to point to specific factors that influence performance overall, and a subsequent intervention program should be chosen and used with enough intensity to make a difference.  Monitoring should track change over time so that problems can be addressed.

 If assessments were truly utilized the way they were designed, we would not see the same students in Academic Intervention Services (AIS) staying in AIS throughout their schooling.  Although assessments are necessary to see what the underlying issues are that prevent progress, it is a waste of time if they are not being used to improve instructional choices.  Here are some questions that parents should be asking:

 ·       Which skills are lacking or preventing my child from making progress?

·       How is the skill deficit being addressed?

·       Is my child being given enough time in the intervention to see a difference?

·       How many students are in the intervention group?

·       Are all the components of the intervention being used with fidelity?

 If your child is an “AIS Lifer,” it is likely that your child is being “monitored” without the underlying problems being remedied.  This is not true intervention.

(High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching is located in Plainview, Long Island.)

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