Early literacy screening is one of the most important educational technologies available today. I believe districts are not taking advantage of the full opportunity available in universal screening when they choose to use Computer Adaptive Tests (CATs).
A CAT is essentially an achievement test that is used to identify risk status. Students take the test on a computer. The test includes many, many items that have been ordered from easy to hard. Students are first presented with items somewhere in the middle of the difficulty scale, or at a place indicated by their grade level, or perhaps based on a previous test score.
When the student responds correctly to an item or items, they are presented with more difficult items, based on the performance of other students who previously took the test. When the student responds incorrectly to an item, they are presented with easier items. Each student has their own unique path through the assessment.
The computer software does a calculation of the student's achievement level and offers recommendations for instructional topics, grouping arrangements, and risk status.
Examples of CATs include MAP by NWEA, aReading by FastBridge, and Star Early Literacy by Renaissance.
1. Not always accurate for screening
2. Not useful for planning instruction
3. Not designed for progress monitoring
4. Not production responses
5. Not measures of the essential early literacy skills
6. Not appropriate for pre-K and kindergarten
7. Not brief
8. Not standardized
9. Not criterion-referenced
10. Not easy to interpret
11. Not able to aggregate across students
12. Not given by teachers
I believe universal screening offers the best opportunity for influencing future reading outcomes when the screening assessment is:
CBMs such as Acadience Reading K-6 and DIBELS 8th Edition fit the criteria for universal screening and provide educators with the information they need to prevent reading failure and provide effective early reading intervention.
Disclosure: I worked for the authors of Acadience for twelve years and I occasionally contract with the authors and their publisher to provide training or to write content related to their assessments. I was not asked or paid by anyone to write this blog entry.
Dr. Stephanie Stollar is the founder of Stephanie Stollar Consulting LLC and the creator of The Reading Science Academy. She is a part-time assistant professor in the online reading science program at Mount St. Joseph University, and a founding member of a national alliance for supporting reading science in higher education.