What Types of Universal Screening Assessments are Administered for Reading?

While learners will work through several early literacy measures, the vast majority of learners will be tested in two core reading skills – fluency and basic comprehension. In this brief blog, we will discuss how these core reading skills are tested.

Reading Fluency

Usually, fluency is assessed with a one-minute timed oral reading measure. This assessment is commonly called R-CBM. For universal screening, reading fluency is looked at as words read per minute. While many argue this is a small view of fluency, it is essential to remember that universal screeners are only designed to help us find where we need to dig deeper.

When I say dig deeper, I mean that a student’s performance on a universal screener for reading fluency helps us decide what diagnostic assessment should be used. In turn, the student’s performance on a diagnostic assessment will tell us the type of interventions the student needs to improve their reading fluency.

Reading fluency is very important because it is a prerequisite for automaticity. Automaticity is the fast, effortless word identification that happens after a lot of reading practice. In the initial stages of learning to read, readers may be accurate but slow and inefficient at identifying higher-level words. Practice with reading fluency helps word recognition become more automatic, rapid, and effortless.

Reading Comprehension

Comprehension is assessed via a cloze passage, where a set of choices is given for every seventh word. The odds are that the assessment that your school district is using is whether MAZE or DAZE. To finish this assessment, learners are to select the word that makes sense in the passage. This assessment is also timed, and learners work to finish as much as they can within the time restriction. The entire assessment usually lasts 3 minutes.

One of the complaints I hear from educators about the cloze format is simplicity. In other words, it doesn’t test whether learners can do any of the reading skills they’ve been taught. While this is true, it is essential to remember that the universal screener’s goal is to catch learners most at-risk of poor outcomes. The cloze format focuses on basic comprehension. In other words, can learners follow along and comprehend a  grade-level appropriate picture book?

Is there more to reading comprehension? However, those who are flagged on this measure show a potential gap in the foundation of reading comprehension – the ability to read and understand.

Do you have any additional questions on universal screeners and reading? If so, leave them in the comment section below.

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