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.
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.
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!
“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!
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
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!
Sarah Bae is a grad student at Chapman University where she is focusing on School Psychology in her pursuit of a License in Professional Clinical Counseling (LPCC). Last week at the NASP conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Sarah was awarded the 2019 NASP-ERT Minority Scholarship. Established in 1995, the NASP-ERT Minority Scholarship Program supports graduate training for minority students who are pursuing careers in school psychology.
Influenced by two cultures, Sarah grew up in California but has strong roots in Korea. Her parents are Korean immigrants who made it a priority for Sarah to experience Korean culture in her everyday life. Growing up in the United States while being immersed in Korean culture at home helped give Sarah an appreciation for the importance of others’ cultures and beliefs. Realizing those differences is not only a big part of her identity, but has also inspired Sarah’s future.
Discovering the field of school psychology
Beginning with an internship in high school where she worked with children with autism, Sarah’s interest was sparked and her journey began. Through that early experience, and looking back over four years as a behavior therapist, along with her involvement in advocacy and awareness programs, Sarah can trace her discovery of the field of school psychology and says she is very passionate to see “how education, disability awareness, and advocacy can intertwine.”
Throughout her academic career, Sarah has worked with children of all age groups, but finds that her favorite and most rewarding work is with Pre-K ages and younger. Working with this age group, Sarah recognizes how having a relationship with the child’s parents — and being part of a larger team of caregivers — can have a strong impact on a child’s development.
Winning the scholarship
Sarah is very passionate about future opportunities to grow the school psychology field in other countries. Past experiences have helped her realize how mental health awareness and education can be adversely impacted by cultural stigmas. Winning the NASP-ERT Minority Scholarship inspires Sarah to “...work hard here [at Chapman]” so that she can help families of diverse cultures in the future.
Encouraged by mentors
Sarah’s greatest mentor? Her mom, Kristi Bae, who according to Sarah is “the hardest working person I know and she encourages me to pursue all of my dreams.” Sarah is also “...blessed with this amazing faculty!” at Chapman, and says Dr. Griffiths and Dr. Busse have been especially helpful mentors along her education journey.
Through an opportunity with Chapman, and guided by Dr. Griffiths, who is originally from South Africa, Sarah visited Cape Town where she and a group of student-colleagues spent time in the Langa Township working with an afterschool STEM program. While there, the group learned more about the education system and the impact that racism and aparthheid can have on education.
After graduating next year, Sarah will begin work as a school psychologist in California, while also taking advantage of opportunities to work internationally during summer breaks. In time, she will gain enough hours to sit for the LPCC exam. She wants to gain some experience in the field, then eventually pursue her PhD.
On behalf of Pearson, our sincerest congratulations, Sarah! And our very best wishes as you continue your studies and make a valuable contribution to the field of school psychology!
It was late in the afternoon when I joined the call, and Rebecca was bright, cheerful, and ready to chat. I shared my expectations of the interview’s duration, to which she replied that she was giving a Tourette syndrome presentation later that night, and had another one the next day — in total, seven presentations that week! I was immediately struck with her passion for helping others and the depth of her self awareness, but what struck me most was her humility.
Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at 13, Rebecca remembers having tics as far back as Kindergarten, but didn’t know what was causing them. According to Rebecca's mom, Susan, it took a long time for Tourette syndrome to have a name. “Before that happened, we were in limbo. Now that her condition has a name, Rebecca has grabbed it by the horns and run with it!”
Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics and vocalizations.
For the past three years, Rebecca has served as a Youth Advocate for the Tourette Association of America, but her passion for volunteering took hold when her grandma introduced her to a local support group after her diagnosis. Through the support group, Rebecca has made many close friends and has traveled throughout New York to help build awareness of Tourette syndrome in an effort to combat bullying. She learned about the national organization’s Youth Advocate program, and after attending training in DC, along with other teens with Tourette syndrome from across the country, Rebecca has made it her mission to educate others.
“I’m a normal kid who’s just had a little bump in the road but can show people that, no matter what, you can make the best out of a bad situation.” - Rebecca Caron
Rebecca will be the recipient of the 2019 Yes I Can Award for School & Community Activities on Friday, February 1st, at the 2019 CEC Yes I Can Awards in Indianapolis. Nominated by Natalie Joseph-Pauline of the Tourette Association of America, Rebecca was also featured on Long Island’s News12 — 12 Making a Difference — for her impact on the local community.
“It makes me so happy to see her trying to improve the lives of other people who are living with Tourette syndrome. She’s so nurturing, and it’s amazing as a mom to see!” - Susan Caron.
Not even five minutes into the interview, Danielle is cracking jokes and has me laughing out loud. It's readily apparent that this 14-year-old high school “fresh[wo]man” (her word) is wise beyond her years!
Meet Danielle Pruitt, a charming, confident, and wicked smart teenager who has spinal muscular atrophy - a condition that keeps her confined to a pad on the floor most of her day, as she is unable to walk or sit independently. Danielle has to go to school each day with her mom, but quickly assures me that it's “not as bad as it sounds!”
A lifelong love of academics
On February 1 in Indianapolis, Danielle will be the recipient of the 2019 Yes I Can Award for Academics. Her love for learning was kindled at the early age of 5, when Danielle would attend preschool just two hours per day - and cry all the way home because she didn't want to leave! She continued this pattern every day until fifth grade, by which time she had progressed to attending school four days per week and 80% of the day. By middle school Danielle had progressed to full time attendance.
According to her mom, Beth, Danielle experienced a transformation during middle school. Although she'd always had phenomenal, nurturing teachers, Danielle’s sixth grade teacher, Sandra Whitt, held her to very high standards and challenged her in a very unique way. Even though Ms. Whitt had extremely high expectations, Danielle met them. This fueled Danielle's personal mantra - to be treated like everyone else, to do school like everyone else, and to be held to the same expectations as everyone else. Throughout her school career, it's been those teachers who’ve held her accountable to such high standards that have made such a lasting impression on Danielle.
In 8th grade, Danielle was fortunate to have another teacher who challenged her - her social studies teacher Michelle Parsons. According to Danielle, Ms. Parsons did not give praise unless you truly deserved it. It was for this very reason that Ms. Parsons’ nomination of Danielle for the 2019 Yes I Can Award for Academics was that much more meaningful.
Throughout my conversation with Danielle, I had to remind myself that I am speaking with a 14-year-old. When asked what’s it like to be in the spotlight at such a young age, Danielle quipped “Very rewarding. When I approach a test and I am thinking in my head ‘Oh I don’t want to be doing this anymore’, I think about all the hard work that I’ve put in to receive this award, and then I feel more motivated.”
Beth is extremely proud of Danielle, and stressed how hard Danielle has worked to achieve the Academics award. She was quick to explain that Danielle is very intelligent, and that the work doesn’t come easy for her. “She puts in the time and effort to be successful," she noted. Beth is also very thankful of the “radical problem solvers” they’ve been surrounded by during Danielle’s academic career. She goes on to explain that there have been no “we’ve never done that before” comments - they’ve always been met with problem solvers, which has not only been a huge help over the years, but also a great source of motivation.
Toward the end of our conversation, I asked Danielle if she wanted to share any final thoughts. After a brief pause, she stressed that it’s important for everyone to understand how crucial it is to “use what you have and not let what you don’t have destroy who you are.”
Danielle, I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you for being such an incredible inspiration!
On Friday, February 1st, Bryan Martinez will be the recipient of the 2019 Yes I Can Award for Technology at the CEC Conference in Indianapolis. Nominated by Theresa Copple, his Riverside, California County Deaf and Hard of Hearing Itinerant Teacher, Bryan will also be recognized by the district school board in March. When I asked how he felt about being in the spotlight, Bryan said he was most excited to tell his dad, who will be with him at the ceremony in Indianapolis to watch him receive the award.
A high school senior, Bryan’s journey to the Technology award has been nothing if not difficult. When he was eight years old, he lost his mother — and his hearing — in a traumatic car accident. After this life-changing tragedy, Bryan, his brother, Kevin, and their dad grew very close, forging a strong support system that has helped Bryan not only cope with his hearing loss, but learn how to thrive in spite of it. Ms. Copple has also been a long-term source of support, having been in the unique position of working with Bryan and his family since the accident. In her role, Copple says, “I’m somewhere between a teacher and an aunt — it’s an opportunity to know the student and the family — and be with them through the ups and downs.”
"Bryan always, always has a smile on his face! He doesn't let anything stop him - he perseveres." - Theresa Copple
As a robotics and technology enthusiast, Bryan has embraced the technology that enables him to hear: bilateral hearing ads, a personal FM system, and a sound field system at school. He instructs his teachers on how to use the sound field system that improves his ability to participate in the classroom. Bryan would like to continue studying technology as he enters college next year, and he is currently applying for scholarships. Congratulations and best of luck to you, Bryan!