I. Weekly Reading Fluency Assessments
II. Informal Assessment Strategies
III. Responding to Assessment Data
IV. The Essentials
Why Teacher-Led Assessment Is Needed
Hundreds of millions of children around the world are not learning despite being in school. It is estimated that 262 million children worldwide will reach the last grade of primary education but will not achieve the minimum proficiency levels in reading. To compound the problem, teachers are often unaware of the extent of this issue, even in their own classrooms; research suggests that teachers tend to overestimate their students’ skill levels. For example, one study in Rwanda found that teachers estimated 52% of their Grade 2 students could read and correctly answer questions on a simple passage, whereas in reality, only 7% were able to do this successfully.
children will reach the final grade of primary school without gaining basic reading skills
Recognizing the urgent need to address this learning crisis, the international discourse has shifted from a focus on educational access to discussions of quality, with a growing recognition of the importance of measuring learning outcomes when evaluating interventions. While these are important, such evaluations can be likened to a rear-view mirror, providing information about what has already occurred, unable to help students in real-time. For students currently in school, it is essential that their progress is assessed on a regular basis to ensure they get timely support to keep their learning on track.
The Teacher-Led Assessment element of the Luminos Method reflects our experience across multiple country programs, and highlights the best practices in assessment to help keep students’ learning on track. We have found that providing teachers with a “low-tech, high-touch” approach helps them to see their students as individuals and enables them to more effectively respond to their students’ needs. Having teachers lead the collection of this data—rather than program monitoring and evaluation staff—gives them the information that they need to address the learning gaps in their classrooms. This ultimately results in better learning outcomes. In just 10 months, our students are equipped with the skills they need to be successful when they return to mainstream school.
Regular assessment is an essential component of education that is truly learner-centered and based on individual student needs.
With simple tools, training, and support, teachers can successfully:
- Conduct weekly reading fluency assessments
- Implement informal assessment strategies
- Effectively respond to assessment data and information
The combination of these efforts results in dramatically higher learning outcomes.
This webpage includes an overview of the kinds of assessments conducted by our teachers and how the information they gather is used to support students on their learning journey. For more detailed information, recommendations based on our experiences, and a discussion of some of the trade-offs needed to make this element of the Luminos Method work, you can download this document.
I. Weekly Reading Fluency Assessments
Reading fluency (including the ability to read with speed and accuracy) is essential to enable students to understand a text in front of them.  At Luminos, we recognize this is a crucial skill for students to continue their education beyond our program, and will benefit them throughout their life. In every country where we work, we set reading fluency goals for students to achieve during our 10 months program.
In order to ensure progress towards these goals teachers:
- Listen to each child read a new text every week
- Record the number of correct words they read in one minute
- Set a target with the student to work on in the upcoming weeks
We provide training and coaching support for teachers on how to conduct these assessments, along with written guidelines and the assessment tool themselves.
“The assessment is a good way to build confidence with the kids because they can see their own progress. If this week they’re reading five words per minute, another week they’re reading 11 words per minute, that builds their confidence and motivates them to do more.”
Abba G. Karnga Jr., Liberia Program Manager, Luminos Fund
We have found that conducting the assessments on a weekly basis is useful to:
- Identify which students need additional support
- Break down longer goals into more achievable short-term targets, helping to motivate students and teachers
- Emphasize that reading fluency is an important goal of the program
- Develop a routine for students and teachers.
Based on our experiences to date, here are our recommendations to anyone interested in conducting regular fluency assessments as part of their education programming:
Build time for assessment into the weekly timetable
Support teachers with how to manage work for the rest of the class
Ensure the text is not one that students have seen before
Give teachers practical advice and training on:
- Marking errors
- Counting correct words quickly
- Using stop-watches or mobile phones as timers
Provide a format for inputting scores to help teachers keep track of student progress
Teachers should record data first before performing any calculations to avoid errors
Include actions in a teacher’s guide (or other similar document) to help teachers respond to assessment data
Include time for remediation
Provide on-going coaching on how to conduct assessments and use the information effectively
Complement reading fluency assessments with other forms of informal assessment
To learn more about how we conduct weekly fluency assessments, along with tips and lessons learned, download the full PDF!
II. Informal Assessment Strategies
The data collected through the weekly fluency assessments is complemented by a range of other informal strategies used to check how students are progressing. Our pedagogical approach, which emphasizes student participation and active learning, naturally includes opportunities for teachers to gain insights on how students are grasping the knowledge and skills taught in their lessons. This includes a range of strategies such as:
- Asking students questions on the material (including “exit tickets”)
- Asking students to give a brief summary of the topic or lesson
- Students giving demonstrations of skills for the class or for peers in small groups
- Regular whole-class spelling checks
- Numeracy and language arts exercises with written corrections and feedback provided by the teacher
Students are asked quick “exit ticket” questions as they leave the classroom to check their grasp of the lesson. For example:
What is 3 x 6?
What is the name of a shape with five sides?
What would be heavier – a book or a table?
How do you spell “people”?
What word do the sounds /ch/ /a/ /t/ make?
While the use of such techniques might sound simple or obvious, they are not common features in all classrooms where we work. They all provide opportunities for the teacher to observe whether or not students have grasped the skills and content being covered.
To learn more about how informal assessment strategies are used in the Luminos Method, download the full PDF!
III. Responding to Assessment Data and Information
One of the most important parts, but perhaps the most challenging, of implementing assessments in our classrooms is supporting teachers to effectively use the data they have gathered. In the Luminos program, we provide teachers with simple actions they can take in based on the information gained through the weekly assessments and day-to-day observations. This includes adjusting their teaching during the regular school day and creating remedial sessions for small groups of students.
The targeted instructional sessions are particularly important because our students often progress at very different rates. This is perhaps not surprising given the range of student ages, backgrounds, and experiences. While most students join us unable to read a single word, we find that mid-way into the year, reading abilities can vary quite dramatically as shown in the graphic below.
For teachers to respond effectively to a wide range of individual student needs and ensure each child can progress in the classroom, it is essential that they are aware of the varying levels of achievement in their class.
To learn more about how about how teachers use information and data from the assessments they conduct, download the full PDF!
IV. Teacher-Led Assessment Essentials
Regular assessment is an essential component of quality education. At Luminos this means:
1. Weekly reading fluency assessments:
- One-on-one assessment between the student and teacher
- New texts used each week
- Timed, lasting one minute
- Used to set targets for each child
2. Informal assessment strategies:
- Short check-ins during the school day that are baked into the curriculum
- Students are prompted to demonstrate their knowledge aloud, through demonstrations, or writing
- Includes verbal and written feedback from teachers
3. Responding to assessment data and information:
- Teachers use information from the weekly fluency assessments and informal assessment strategies to inform:
- Adjustments to whole-class instruction
- Small group remedial sessions
- Support to individual students
We believe that equipping teachers with the skills and tools they need to conduct regular assessments empowers them to ensure that all students in their classroom are receiving the support they need, resulting in dramatically higher learning outcomes.
Footnotes & References
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The Luminos Fund is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt charitable organization registered in the United States (EIN 36-4817073).