Are we there yet? Evaluating progress for struggling readers

Progress is personal to every child. Amazing growth for one student is a disappointing slide for another, and it’s the work in-between assessments that offers a more complete picture of skill development.

Struggling readers often have a lot of ground to cover, making it even more critical to see the learner beneath the data points. Online programs that create personal learning profiles give educators deeper insights into the unique pacing differences, engagement levels and knowledge gaps of every student.

Understanding more about how students learn can be used to develop targeted strategies to help them reach their personal best. Here are a few examples:

Fiction or nonfiction? When students are engaged in a topic, they tend to focus more and get better results on higher-order comprehension questions. In other words, they just seem to “get it.” Learning profiles can show whether a student performs better with certain subject matter. Understanding students’ interests while asking them to reflect on their own preferences can uncover ways to increase reading frequency and develop strategies to replicate that success in other areas.

Missed objectives: If a student is struggling in comprehension, are there any trends in specific concepts or question types? For example, a student always scores low on graphic organizers regardless of the topic or concept. One strategy would be to ask the student to work on a scratch pad to fill in the graphic organizer on paper, then reread the text before completing it onscreen. If the student’s accuracy improves, discuss how to use that technique to improve learning. Reviewing errors by learning objective and activity type provides context for students that makes goals achievable.

Faster is not always better. Let’s take the example of a student we’ll call Joe. Measured against the class average for completed reading assignments, Joe is lagging behind. Two questions arise: why and is it a problem? Looking more closely at Joe’s data, the teacher can see that his accuracy is improving with each assignment. Joe’s pace is also getting faster, but he’s still just a little slower than his class peers. Can Joe be given more time in the schedule, maybe during optional study periods? He also needs to be rewarded for his efforts to make sure the extra reading time isn’t seen as a punishment!

Repeated errors: Teachers are often working with students in whole-class or small-group settings where everyone is reading at very different levels. Online instruction that is adaptive delivers self-paced learning while giving the teacher access to data that is specific to each student. Online programs that capture each keystroke and error enable the teacher to drill down to concepts that students are struggling to understand.

Data chats: Regular discussions to review progress are a great way to engage students in their learning. While “good” progress may be different for each student, using data to review strengths and zero in on areas of weakness can help students identify where they need to focus. Sharing error analysis and trending data gives students tangible information about their progress – and what to do next.

The reality is that students will be assessed on pass/fail benchmarks but there’s still room to forge individual paths to success. Giving teachers access to tools and data to personalize growth can be the key to unlocking potential.

View an example of using data to personalize instruction in BrightFish Reading. 

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