Using data to inform instruction in reading is a very different thing than teaching to a test. Learning to read follows a prescribed path that expert teachers follow in order to lay a proper foundation for independent reading. This path includes components such as fluency, comprehension, and phonographic knowledge. Whether we use Dibels, Aims Web, DRA, or another formal measure, responsible reading teachers use these measures as a tool to find out which components of the reading spectrum children have mastered and how their skills can be increased. This is the responsible teaching of reading.
As a teacher, it is my job to have the prescribed teaching path in clear view at all times; my eyes right on the target or end-goal. This is best accomplished through the use of assessments and the gathering and interpreting of data. To correctly interpret data, you must understand how to disaggregate data and how to strategically use that information. Disaggregation means to take student testing information and break it into specific subgroups to take a closer look at the actual results.
For example, a typical state test for kindergarten may include three sub-tests that are combined for a cumulative score. The teacher looks at the results and sees that her two students Bobby and Susie both tested “green” and received an on-grade level score. Another student Tommy, received a yellow. Why? If the teacher looks closely at the three subtests of each student, she will quickly identify Bobby, Tommy, and Susie’s instructional needs.
By desegregating the data a teacher can quickly have more information than a cumulative score. The teacher now knows that both Susie and Tommy need targeted instruction towards letter naming fluency and Bobby needs targeted instruction in nonsense word fluency and phoneme segmentation fluency. If the teacher had depended on the cumulative score alone, important building blocks toward reading instruction would have been missed.
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Kathy Crane holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Reading, is a published author of thirteen books, a freelance author and developer of teaching curriculum, has been a teacher of kindergarten for twenty-two years, and publishes the blog Kindergarten Kiosk.