• Interventions, instruction, and progress monitoring — oh my!

    Teacher and student

    Plan your reading assessment activities in less time than your costume

    Fall is officially here, accompanied by cooler weather, football games, apple picking, pumpkin carving, hay rides, and all of the thrills — and chills — of Halloween. Does your school allow costumes for Halloween? Are you dreading the veins-full-of-sugar Friday after? (We all are!) No matter what frights your students have in store for you this month, you can rest easy knowing that the DRA3 Reading Assessment calendar will keep you on track with your students’ literacy support.

    What’s on the calendar for October?

    One of the most important tasks in any school year is discovering each student’s literacy strengths and weaknesses. Identifying where they might need a little help, and how you can utilize their strengths to augment that support will help them make the most of their educational time. We have put together a reading assessment calendar to help you stay on track throughout the year, and to provide you with helpful tools to enhance your reading curriculum. October’s activities are crucial to your students’ reading success, and will set you on the path to discovering — and fostering — the lifelong reader in each of them!

    Download the calendar  

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  • Early childhood development and the 10 indicators of risk

    Now that you’ve watched Gloria Maccow’s video answering the five basic questions about early childhood development, you might be wondering how you can identify the children in your care who may need extra support. HeadStart has provided an Early Learning Outcomes Framework (HSELOF) which presents five broad areas of early learning — central domains — which reflect research-based expectations for learning and development. The framework emphasizes the key skills, behaviors, and knowledge that programs must foster in children ages birth to 5 to help them be successful in school and life:

    • Cognition
    • Language and literacy
    • Approaches to learning
    • Social and emotional development
    • Perception, motor, and physical development

    There are some well-known indicators for identifying children who may be at risk or need extra support.

    The 10 indicators of risk:

    1. Difficulties following directions or routines
    2. Clumsy (gross and/or fine motor skills)
    3. Difficulties interacting with peers
    4. Talked late compared to peers
    5. Slow vocabulary growth
    6. Extremely restless and easily distracted
    7. Poor articulation
    8. Difficulty naming known objects quickly
    9. Poor phonological awareness skills
    10. Poor letter-naming skills/math skills

    While some of these are typical of any young child, none should be discounted, and further screening is recommended. Using a tool that aligns with the HeadStart Framework is important to ensure you are measuring a child’s progress against a well-known and respected standard.

    Early Screening Inventory, Third Edition (ESI-3) aligns with HeadStart, and can quickly identify where they may need additional support in or outside of the classroom, with reporting that can be shared with parents.

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  • Factors that influence assessment outcomes

    Person with thought bubble

    By Chris Huzinec, MS, and Anne-Marie Kimbell, PhD, MSEd

    Assessment performance is rarely a straightforward process. While the tests being used have varying degrees of standardization and psychometric properties, the most effective are those that have robust reliability and validity. However, their results can be skewed by factors relating to the student, client, patient, or clinician — even the testing environment or testing process itself can affect the outcome.

    Is the student being tested developmentally delayed? Do they have physical disabilities such as a visual impairment or hearing loss? Did they get enough sleep the night before? Have they eaten that day? Is there a language difference? Perhaps the tester’s physical or mental state is less than optimal, or they are unfamiliar with the testing materials.

    Testing adults with fidelity can also be hampered by outside influences such as literacy, substance abuse, language, and many other factors.

    Even when thorough assessment procedures are followed, conditions are present during the testing session that can affect performance, scores, and, as a consequence, test results. Being aware of these factors and their potential impact on the testing process is important to ensure maximum performance and accurate results.

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  • The dust has settled. Now what?

    The hubbub and chaos of the first days of school are behind you, and your days are filled with getting to know each of your new students. Perhaps a rogue paper airplane that landed at the foot of your desk while you were facing the whiteboard has already prompted a seating change. Perhaps the little boy who comes in each morning and rattles off random facts has inspired you to add a supplementary unit on the history of drinking straws. Perhaps you’re already planning your escape (kidding!). At any rate, whatever the first few weeks had in store for you, you are looking toward the future, and planning your next steps with your new students.

    What’s next?

    One of the most important tasks in any school year is discovering each student’s literacy strengths and weaknesses. Identifying where they might need a little help, and how you can utilize their strengths to augment that support will help them make the most of their educational time. We have put together a reading assessment calendar to help you stay on track throughout the year, and to provide you with helpful tools to enhance your reading curriculum. September’s activities are crucial to your students’ reading success, and will set you on the path to discovering the lifelong reader in each of them!

    Download the calendar

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  • The Game-Changing Effects of Review360

    Three people with mountains in background

    Tierra del Sol Middle School in Lakeside, California had a problem. Like many schools, it was struggling with how to better manage social behaviors that were adversely affecting academic performance. According to the team, there was never enough time or resources to create the necessary interventions for students. They also did not have a reliable assessment method for identifying every student that required assistance and their specific needs. And finally, they could not track students’ progress to know if their interventions were working.

    David Brumbaugh, a special education teacher at Tierra del Sol, went looking for a solution and found Pearson’s Review360® in a weekly update from the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE), an international organization that shapes policies and practices that impact the quality of education.

    Review360 is a web-based behavior improvement system that includes a behavioral assessment, recommendations for interventions that map to the results, progress monitoring, and an incident reporting tool that is sortable and searchable. It provides Brumbaugh, administrators, teachers, and even parents with a data-driven method for improving disruptive social behaviors, as well as training and resources for teachers and real-time feedback and guidance for learners.

    Brumbaugh credits Review360 with making him more effective in the classroom. “ I spent six years beating my head against the wall trying to expand and improve our intervention program and Pearson handed it all to me on a silver tray. It’s just fantastic. Check-In/Check-Out is the most widely referenced evidenced-based practice for multi-tiered systems of support and in my experience is simply not possible with any system except Review360.”

    Tierra del Sol psychologist Sue Cradduck, agrees that Review360 helps the school to provide better service to its students: “Review360 gives us a complete view of each student’s behavior throughout the day; now we can see problematic and positive behaviors at a glance. Thanks to Pearson, we can make really great decisions based on data that’s not colored by personal opinion. It’s objective.”

    Review360 was designed with teachers and administrators in mind so that they could get insight into student behavior through actionable data and connect with key stakeholders, like parents. In fact, according to Brumbaugh, Review360 has had an unexpected benefit: it has opened the lines of communication between teachers and parents with quantifiable information and solutions for in and out of school.

    Joselie Horner’s son Caelan attends Tierra del Sol. She reports real change in her son once his class started using Review360. “When he has been frustrated in the past, he would just give up and say, ‘I can’t do this,’ but with Review360 and Mr. Brumbaugh’s encouragement, he is more persistent and successful in his studies.”

    After years of receiving negative news about Caelan, Horner is now filled with hope. She knows exactly how she can assist her son and he is finally willing to go to school. No more morning battles. According to Horner, Caelan is now a self-starter who helps others around him. “Review360 is a game-changer for Tierra del Sol and kids like Caelan,” said Brumbaugh. “I have worked in special education for 18 years and have never been more satisfied with what we have accomplished for our kids.”

    To learn more about how Review360 can help your school, read here.

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  • Get ready to soar to new heights!

    Two students reading

    “Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”
    – Jim Rohn

    Reading helps us grow, takes us to places we’ve never been, and opens up opportunities we’d otherwise might never have. Reading is the basis for all learning — and our team places a high value on both. Like opening the cover to a new book, each school year is a chance to transform your students into lifelong learners and avid adventurers through reading.

    Just as each student is unique, so, too, are their reading skills. Where one student may have a firm grip on context, they may struggle with retention. Some of your students may be reading two grades ahead while others are at grade level — or two grades behind. Determining each student’s individual reading abilities for each skill can be overwhelming, especially considering back-to-school is already packed to the gills with activity and excitement.

    Enter the Developmental Reading Assessment, now in its third edition (a.k.a. DRA3). Its authors have researched, revamped, and reengineered it to not only make your students better readers, but to make your day easier. We understand that learning how to use a new or updated assessment can be daunting, especially in the beginning of the school year, but we’ve been burning the midnight oil to make sure that you’ve got all of the training and support you need right at your fingertips. We’ve also put together a reading assessment calendar to help guide you through the school year, outlining important activities for each month, as well as pertinent events.

    August’s calendar is full of training and planning, and ours is no exception! Both are excellent means to ensuring a successful year, full of growth and adventure. We are honored to have a hand in this year’s adventures, and are right by your side if you need us!

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  • DRA3: Empowering teachers. Engaging students.

    Female reading book to child

    Here's to beginnings…

    33 years ago, when teachers Joetta Beaver and Dr. Mark Carter saw a need for and developed the Developmental Reading Assessment™, they could only dream that it would find its way into as many schools, and affected as many students as it has. Luckily for all of us, their dedication to expanding the horizons of readers everywhere didn't end there! Now in its third edition, the DRA™3 is about to hit the mailboxes of teachers everywhere, and this version will knock your socks off!

    While beginning the process of updating the DRA™2, we reached out to our customers to find out what was most important to them. 97% told us that the latest research and field studies to support its validity were important to them, 96% looked for a positive experience for the student, while 95% felt that an ample selection of fiction and non-fiction leveled books for all reading levels was a priority. 89% looked for an all-inclusive kit with reading benchmarking, word analysis, and progress monitoring, 89% utilize teaching tools to improve their efficiency and effectiveness, and 88% would appreciate built-in professional development.

    We took all of this valuable educator feedback and combined it with field studies and updated research and are thrilled with the result. DRA3 isn't simply the premier developmental reading assessment, it's an all-inclusive solution for transforming students into lifelong readers!

    Here's what one of our team members had to say about it: "The DRA3 provides teachers with the in-depth information they need to help their students become proficient, enthusiastic readers. With over 100 Benchmark Assessment Books at 23 reading levels, as well as Word Analysis and Progress Monitoring options, DRA3 is a comprehensive assessment system to engage and support developing readers in Grades K–8." – Erin Gunelson, Senior Product Manager for DRA3

    "The 'cream' of DRA is the Focus for Instruction page."
    - February 2019 Reading Assessment Survey

    What's new with DRA3?

    We're glad you asked! One great new feature is the Level Estimator which identifies the best starting levels for younger students or new students entering your school or district. The entire solution is also available on a digital system that offers teachers a web-based platform to assess, score, report, manage data, and create and monitor individual student reading plans — all in the same place. This data follows individual students through each grade allowing for a smooth transition and easy access to historical data. The digital platform includes a few extra reports as well, such as:

    • Class Roster Report
    • Student Action Plan
    • Student Assessment History
    • Assessment Instance Results
    • Parent Report
    • Student Performance Over Time
    • Class Skills Summary
    • School/District Benchmark Scoring Report
    • School/District Data Across Seasons (and Across Years)

    In a nutshell, DRA3 puts all of the tools you need to engage your students in their reading progress in one place. Its streamlined assessment, instruction, and progress monitoring workflow empowers teachers and students alike!

    Ready to transform your students into lifelong readers? Learn more about DRA3 at!


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  • Stop the “I don’t care” mantra before it even starts

    by Caroline Miller

    Girl looking bored in class

    It sounds simple to non-educators, yet one of the most frustrating parts of a teacher’s job is dealing with the “I don’t care… so what” attitude of indifference and lack of motivation. Sometimes it affects one student, and other times it seems like the whole class is apathetic and unmotivated. While the teacher remains anxious about covering material before the testing season, students seem to be distracted, bored, and tuning out. Many students have been unsuccessful, have lost hope, and feel no one really cares. Academic apathy can certainly be a complicated issue to resolve and ignoring it results in little success and more typically leads to increased behavioral issues. Experience shows that yelling, lecturing, and punishment seldom motivate or change the behavior for the better. To help keep students actively engaged, Review360 offers a few strategies for increasing students’ motivation to learn and behave appropriately.

    Using Words

    • Avoid negative putdowns as they frequently lead to shut-downs in cooperation, participation, and motivation. Keep a positive demeanor.
    • Use students’ names and things you know about them in lessons and worksheets to teach concepts and connect with them. (Example: Identify the nouns in the following sentence: Susan enjoyed seeing the giraffes on her trip to the Dade County Zoo last Saturday.) This lets them know you care and are interested in them and listen to information they share with you.
    • Show enthusiasm and zest when you teach.  Let students know when a concept is especially challenging and requires close attention. Give examples of when you experienced difficulties learning and paying attention.
    • Talk to students about what effort and “trying” really look and feel like. These are abstract concepts that many don’t really understand. Students often say, “I am trying!”  But your perception and their perceptions vastly differ. Tell them what they need to be doing.
    • Refer to prior learning to make connections between today’s task and an activity completed earlier in the year. Explain “why” the information is important to future learning and real life applications.

    Using Actions

    • Teach by walking around. The nearer you are to students, the more attentive they will be.
    • Start each day/period with an attention getting activity – riddle, bell ringer, talk and turn questions from yesterday’s lesson, circle discussions, etc.
    • Involve students in teaching the lesson with opportunities to rephrase, retell, illustrate, role play, etc.
    • Take advantage of appropriate current events/topics of students’ interests and relate those to lessons. Initiate friendly controversy in discussions. Include unusual information and trivia to spark interests.
    • Assign “jobs” to students who are not engaged, i.e. time keeper, tally marker for answers, chart flipper, light controller, recorder, etc.
    • Use effective questioning strategies. During class discussions, have students pass an object around as each person responds. The last student responding passes the object to a random person for the next answer or response after a question or comment is posed. Students do not know who is going to get the marker/object passed to them next and need to pay attention to respond correctly and contribute to the discussion.
    • Use choral responses, individual white boards, or similar tools for group responses. Also use motions like thumbs up for agreement, thumbs down for disagreement,  or number of fingers held up to indicate level of agreement – fist being none – five being total agreement.

    Using Thoughtful Deeds

    • Recognize first that changes need to occur or the behaviors will remain the same.
    • Combine the skills of an effective educator with those of an effective entertainer. This doesn’t imply being a stand-up comic or “sage on the stage,” but rather it’s trying to bring wit, humor, anticipation, enjoyment, and excitement in lessons.
    • Focus on the rule not the exception – catch more students being good – direct more positive reinforcement toward students who are behaving properly and participating in classwork.
    • Strive to make more verbal and non-verbal connections with students who are disengaged. Find words and actions that fit your style and demeanor.
    • Use effective pacing.
    • Plan activities that promote positive peer relationships like paired learning, jigsaw activities, debates, and Jeopardy-like games.
    • Add some movement to lift energy. Take stretch breaks. Have students move to different parts of the room to indicate their opinion and then discuss their viewpoints.
    • Give praise for effort.  A word of praise can be a “verbal trophy” for some students.
    • Give students more choices so they feel part of the decision-making for their learning and are then likely to take more ownership.
    • Teach with the end in mind, but help students recognize the importance of the paths that get them there.
    • Stay in contact with parents. Send home progress reports about motivation and participation. Ask them to reward good behavior and effort.

    Even when faced with the difficult challenge of educating a diverse group of students, educators committed to improving their practice, and ultimately the learning outcomes for students, will make necessary changes in their teaching repertoire to include careful planning and execution of research based strategies to better engage learners and keep them motivated. Change is often about changing people, and the person who you can control change over the most is yourself. Try bringing some positive change to your classroom this spring.

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