When it comes to data in education, many of us think of mathematics. Data-informed instruction, however, is an integral element of our literacy program. During the October professional development day and as a continuation of the Readers and Writers Workshop, our literacy coach trained the K-5 humanities teachers in using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. The system, a tool for measuring student progress in reading, allows teachers to individualize instruction specific to each student by calculating accuracy rates and comprehension levels using word lists and leveled books. The system is data driven and allows teachers to assess for accuracy, self-correction, fluency, comprehension, and writing.
In the assessment, teachers are looking to determine where students fall into three areas: independent reading level, instructional reading level, and hard reading level. Once they’ve determined a given student’s reading level, the teacher can tailor the instruction to each student’s needs, so that they can meet all students at their own level. This allows instructors to potentially push a student’s comprehension further and faster. Additionally, the formal assessment is given three times a year, so that the teacher and student can adapt throughout the year based on how much the student has grown.
Not only does this system allow the teacher to individualize instruction, it also allows the students to map their growth. They can see by the benchmark’s “band” how much their reading has improved. Students are given individualized book bags, which include books that correlate with their own, personalized reading level. Both teacher and student can be more confident in their decisions in making adjustments to these reading materials during the year. It also enables teacher and student alike to more easily share with parents how their reading is progressing. It’s no longer a subjective “sense” of the student’s reading level. By using this concrete data, it’s much clearer how much progress has been made. As such, the faculty is excited to have this data as they prepare for upcoming conferences.
Humanities teachers continue to meet with our literacy coach consultant every Tuesday to ensure MTS implements the Readers & Writers Workshops most effectively. This includes reviewing and refining the School’s use of the Benchmark Assessment Tool. We are looking forward to sharpening our skills at working with this system in order to enable better individualized instruction that ultimately can improve students’ reading abilities at a faster rate and provide them with confidence in their ability to learn and grow.
While data has clearly found its home in the humanities, we will update you in January about how the faculty are continuing to work with ERB experts to mine that testing data for ways to improve learning for whole classes as well as small groups of students– the focus of our next professional day at the start of 2018.