3 ways we can better assess a student’s reading comprehension


How can we improve the process behind reading assessments and stop children from falling behind?

One of the keys to educational success is the ability to read, and judging the levels by which kids can do it effectively is becoming a bit of a minefield.

Reading comprehension is different from simply being able to read the words in front of them; it’s about their ability to understand what they are reading as they are doing it. There are many systems designed to help assess how well a pupil can do this and to help guide teachers and parents toward certain books that are appropriate for a child’s reading level.

For example, the Lexile framework measures how difficult a text is by analyzing sentence lengths, the frequency, and the difficulty of words. Students are assessed and will only be recommended books within their Lexile score range (between 100 Lexile below and 50 Lexile above their measure), which you can search for on their website. There is also a guide for schools and parents to judge which school-age range a book is suitable for.

It is a simple system designed by Metametrics, and many consider it the gold standard for measuring reading comprehension. Still, others out there analyze texts in different ways that can be just as effective.

So what’s the problem?


It may not have been Metametrics’s intention, but many teachers and parents are wedded to Lexile’s framework alone. Using a one-size-fits-all reading comprehension system like this can be helpful, but it has its limitations. Here are three reasons why:

  1. It fails to consider the whole of the individual it is meant to benefit, like the child’s background, oral abilities, and work habits.

  2. It can stunt children’s progress to be told they can’t read a book they are interested in because it is too difficult for them before they even try to read it.

  3. The Lexile system, in particular, doesn’t measure the text’s content and structure, which causes many outliers. For example, books with more nuanced plots and storylines generally targeted at secondary school ages end up being suggested for younger audiences, and vice versa.

How can we find the best solution for reading assessments?

The Lexile system, and other similar ones that assess texts in linear ways, are an easy tool for teachers to use to judge appropriate books for their class to read. But its limitations mean that some students will inevitably fall behind, as there is no one technological solution out there that caters to the whole child.

Finding the best way to teach literacy and reading comprehension requires more than one solution. Here are three ways you can help a child read with confidence:

1. Every child is different


To ensure that each child has the best chance of success, it is most important to start with the mindset that just because they are the same age doesn’t mean a class of kids is starting with the same level of knowledge and skills. As teachers know, the social and contextual world that children grow up in is a significant factor in their development from an early age. Teachers can’t afford to throw everyone in the same bracket for something as fundamental as reading.

2. Encourage progress


Reading can be an enjoyable experience, but limiting what a child is allowed to read based on what an algorithm thinks is an appropriate level for them doesn’t necessarily encourage a child to enjoy the activity. Giving the student the freedom to choose a book they are interested in will encourage progress, even if judged to be slightly above their range.

3. Having a way to track the success


Technology that works alongside humans is ultimately the best way to measure success. Having an AI tool that can measure simple things like how much they have read, their reading speed, and just generally giving the child an easy platform to evaluate how much of what they’re reading is understandable to them will help teachers more accurately depict the level they are indeed at.

Reading is a crucial pillar of learning; with this, there are no shortcuts. It is more important than ever to embrace the whole child and all its complexities to help individualize the process by which they improve their reading comprehension. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

E-spaces has created an app that helps teachers more easily gauge each child’s learning and engagement in real-time by creating in-lesson assessments. Feedback is instant and is a surefire way to help individualize students learning to ensure no child is left behind. Please fill out our contact us form to find out how your school can be one of the first to try our beta version.

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