Assessment – It’s Not What ‘They’ Are Selling

It’s this…

Found on Cherry Carl’s Assessment Alley page

In their book, Windows Into Literacy, Rhodes and Shanklin (1993) make a profound statement that summarizes how I feel about assessment. “Knowledge about how to gather and analyze useful assessment data to make decisions about instruction is crucial to teachers in socio-psycholinguistic, child-centered classrooms. In such classrooms, cues about instruction come largely from learners themselves rather than from the next lesson in a textbook. Through assessment, teachers can discover students’ interests, strengths, and areas of developmental need to help them become more literate.”


Dear Marie Clay (part 3)

When I read picture books with little ones, I always do a picture walk. We talk about what we see. I give them words that match the pictures. I ask what that word is in their language. I want to know what they notice and what they don’t. I might not point out everything because I want them to make their own discoveries, but I do give them some tools to make the text accessible to them.

That seems to be what your directions for Running Records tell me to do. You never said that Running Records should be done on a cold read.

Would it shock you to hear that when we do Running Records for benchmarking or progress monitoring (I’ll leave that description for another post, but if you are truly curious and can’t wait, click here), we cannot assist our students with a picture walk?

We can walk them through a level A book, but not books leveled B or above. We are directed to hand the book to the student and advise them to look at the pictures.

No vocabulary support. No extra noticing. Nothing.

We are disrespecting our little readers. We are hanging them out to dry.

When a student is reading a Level A, B or C book (and often other levels), they are using strategies to help them figure out the words and often the strategies have little to do with phonics and phonemic awareness. They might use picture clues (oh, that’s a picture of a giraffe, so one of these words must be giraffe) or schema (I’ve been to a zoo and I know that giraffes are tall and have skinny, long necks. That word probably is giraffe).

My own kinders haven’t yet learned that the letter G sometimes makes the same sound that the letter J makes. And many of them have never seen either a goat or a giraffe. Or they might know that in Spanish, that animal in the picture is called a jirafa, and unlike some people reading this post, they know that jirafa starts with the same sound as hat.

So when they see a picture of a giraffe, they might read the sentence below the picture

I see a giraffe.


I see a goat.


I see a jirafa.


I see… ummm…

Each one is an error that will pull down the results of their “test.”

Each one says something different about their reading behaviors and THAT was most important thing for you.

But, oh, yeah, we’re not looking at reading behaviors. We’re looking at levels. And teacher efficacy.

Oh, Marie. Your brilliant way of helping us pay attention to our students’ reading behaviors has been reduced to this.

Dear Marie Clay (part 2)

You said:

Any texts can be used for Running Records – books, stories, information texts, children’s published writing – but a good place to start is with a familiar text that the child has read once or twice before. This text will provide evidence of how the reader is bringing different processes and skills together. A classroom teacher would probably select something the child has recently read in class. The prime purpose of a Running Record is to understand more about how children are using what they know to get to the messages of the text, or in other words, what reading processes they are using.

Apparently, you felt strongly that a Running Record was not meant to trick a reader or to challenge a reader unnecessarily.

We do things differently now.

The texts that my district uses for Running Records are “secured.” Kids cannot see them prior to testing. Teachers can use them ONLY during testing. These are benchmark tests.

Oh, did you mean for Running Records to be used as benchmarks? I suspect not.

Dear Marie Clay (part 1)

Oh Marie. I really wish you were still here. I need your wisdom. I need your guidance. I need you to stay the hand of people who are bastardizing your brilliance.

You designed Running Records to enable teachers to analyze our students’ reading behaviors.

I think you might be dismayed to hear that my state is using them to analyze how well teachers are teaching students to read.

I don’t think the two uses are interchangeable. And I bet you would agree with me.