Advice for Assessing Grade Reading Levels

Advice for Assessing Grade Reading Levels
The Editorial Team February 25, 2013

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Teachers and parents struggling to slot children into grade reading levels need a common scale with defined criteria to ensure that they present the child with reading materials that are challenging and engaging enough to build skills. Educators have developed several scales to use for assessing children’s reading levels, and many children’s books have labels for ages or grade levels derived from these scales.

Three assessment scales

The three most common assessment tools are the Lexile Measures, the DRA Levels (Development Reading Assessment) and the Guided Reading levels. Each of these tools varies in complexity and administration, but each will attempt to help educators and parents gain insight into a child’s reading skills. Below is an overview of each method.

Lexile Measures

MetaMetrics, Inc. created the Lexile Measures scale. The scale ranges from BR for beginning reader and then numerically up to 1600L, with the lower numbers corresponding lower levels of reading skill and comprehension. Higher levels represent the ability to comprehend difficult materials that require advanced reading skills.

A student’s Lexile reader measure score results from their performance on a standardized reading test. Repeating the test at regular intervals can demonstrate how the student’s reading skills are evolving.

Metametrics assigns Lexile text measures to books and other reading materials to aid parents and educators in selecting materials that are within a reader’s skill range. The Lexile measure helps identify reading materials at the right level of difficulty for each individual, but it is not necessary to match a Lexile reading measure exactly to a Lexile text measure for any given reader. Reading material above a tested Lexile reader score helps to improve skills. Usually, readers are comfortable with material from 100L below their level to 50L above.

DRA Levels

A group of educators created the Developmental Reading Assessment in 1986. DRA assessments begin by having a student read something with a known level of difficulty. On completion of the reading assignment, the teacher asks several standardized questions to determine comprehension. Teachers should administer the test several times throughout the academic year to measure the growth of the child’s reading skills. Test scores include results in several different reading skills, such as fluency, phonemic awareness and alphabetic principles.

Many children’s books carry a DRA level, so it is easy to find books that a child can be comfortable reading. Offering a selection of books at a slightly higher skill level helps to build skills.

Guided Reading Levels

The Guided Reading Level Assessment criteria include several alphabetic levels for each grade. As in the other systems, tests assess a student’s reading skills and matches skills to reading materials. The student should progress through the levels as reading skills improve.

Whether you choose to use any or all of these assessment tools, the ultimate goal is to help improve the student’s reading skills. To be effective, the three skills improvement plans all require similar steps:

  • Assess the student’s current skill level.
  • Provide reading material near or even slightly above tested levels.
  • Work on areas of identified weaknesses, and retest periodically throughout the year to assess improvement.

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