In my last post, I shared the many assessment mistakes I’ve made over the years. Blunders aside, I actually love spring assessments for one simple reason. The spring assessment gives me an opportunity to show my students the big picture and remind them that the best reward of all is taking ownership of their own progress. This is usually just a short conversation, but it’s one of the most important talks I will have with them.

When class begins on the day of the spring assessment, I remind the students that in the fall and winter, each of them had read three stories to me. I tell them that they are going to read the stories to me again, and I remind them that, unlike when they work in Read Live, they will read for me without practicing first. I explain that by doing the assessment this way, each one of them will be able to see how much they have improved as a reader since the beginning of the year.

As each student sits down, I ask, "Are you a better reader now than in the beginning of the school year?" Most of them nod eagerly or smile broadly. A few less confident students only nod slightly or indicate "a small amount" with their fingers. I reassure each student that he or she has improved and that we will soon know by how much. 

As I set the story down in front of each student, I read the title aloud, click the “start timing” button when I hear the student read the first word, and then listen carefully. Benchmark Assessor Live* makes it so easy. I just click on missed words, and then when the screen dims and the bell sounds, I click on the last word the student reads. The program instantly calculates the number of words read correctly and saves the data. 

After the student reads all three passages, I click the “edit” button on the Benchmark Assessor Live screen. The student's fall, winter, and spring scores come up on the screen. Then I analyze the data with the student.

My students love this part. Together we compare their fall, winter, and spring words-correct-per-minute scores for each of the three stories. Then we compare the average fall, winter, and spring scores. We make the same comparisons for their errors and expression.

As soon as a student realizes he or she has improved, I ask a most important question (one I've written about already). "Who made you a better reader?" I ask. I hope the students point to themselves. If they do, I know that not only did they improve as readers, but they understand that their gains were due to their own efforts.

All year, I’ve been telling the students that they have what it takes to become great readers. The year has been full of little moments when I see them realize their potential and recognize their progress. Spring assessments always provide another one of these magical moments—usually a big one.

*Service and support for Benchmark Assessor Live terminated June 30, 2019.