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Running head: ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO

Assessment-based Child Study: Harnessing Data to Benefit an Advanced Reader Vanessa Graves Foster Montclair State University

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO Assessment-based Child Study: Harnessing Data to Benefit an Advanced Reader Introduction Standardized testing and corresponding data analysis is a hallmark of the present era of

the American educational system. Pressure has come from many angles to test, chart, graph, and splice what our children should be learning, and then scientific-looking tables are created that dictate the how and by when of each learning goal. Benchmarks are set, and once a child has hit that mark on or before schedule, a communal sigh of relief is breathed: whew! One less child lost to the spiral of sinking national scores and plummeting potential international prowess. But, what then? Once the benchmark has been met, what do we do with our children who have achieved? An unfortunate side effect of our focus on scores, benchmarks, and rankings is the potential neglect of the child who does not seem to be at risk. Our attention and resources are rightly directed at bridging whatever gaps we see in our students that are struggling to remain on pace with the expected educational timetable, but this should not come at the expense of those who are progressing at an accelerated clip. The focus of my individual child study and corresponding one-on-one instruction was a child that I feel is at risk for neglect in our current educational system: a child who is above grade level expectations. The challenge of meeting the different needs of an overflowing classroom of students can be overwhelming. This report seeks to demonstrate one approach to infusing higher-level goals in a manner that will not leave highachieving students to fend for themselves, and harnesses the power of the data provided by highly specified standardized testing to push student cognition in a powerful way.

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO A. Childs background information

LC is a male 6 year old 1st grade student at Peshine BRICK Academy in Newark, NJ. He is one student in a class of 27, and is toward the top of the class in both literacy and mathematics skills assessments. He transferred into his present class two weeks into the school year due to an administrative need. LC is African-American, and lives with his father and 10 year old foster brother. He has infrequent contact with his mother, and has been involved in the DYFS system in the past. His father has sole physical custody. His household is monolinguistic, with English being the only language spoken, written or read. LC reports reading at home with his father often, at least every weekend. He also states that his brother enjoys reading frequently. Based on teacher observations and work samples, LC is a highly proficient reader of the English language, reading a 77-word text in just over a minute, well above the 30-50 words per minute range that is considered average for a beginning first grade reading level. His spelling skills are highly advanced, displaying phonemic mastery and awareness beyond what has been explicitly instructed in the classroom. For example, LC achieved 100% accuracy on a recent CVC spelling test, and was successfully able to spell the word ship well before being introduced to digraphs through coursework. In writing, LC displays a preference for capital letters, but is also able to correctly form lowercase letters. LC is able to accurately respond to a writing prompt and retell factual information from concepts presented in class or stories read independently, using accurate sequencing. In contrast to teacher observations, LCs responses to the Reader Self Perception Scale (RSPS) indicate a Low/Average view of his progress, a Low observational peer comparison, Average/High levels of social feedback, and Low physiological states when reading. It seems

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO that LC senses more external approval of his reading skills (indicated by the Social Feedback) than internal esteem (indicated by the Observational Comparison, Physiological States and his personal analysis of his Progress). LC reports enjoying writing a great deal, and gets excited when presented with opportunities to share his writing with his classmates. He has recently completed a processed writing piece. Having shared it in a small group setting, he is now eager to read it to the entire class. B. Summary of reading and writing assessments administered As a renew school with a greater level of autonomy, Peshine BRICK Academy does not utilize the typical reading, spelling, and writing assessments in use in other NPS facilities. Instead, Peshine BRICK Academy has transitioned to using the Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress, or STEP test. This is an assessment developed by the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, designed to promote precisely targeted growth and mastery of literacy skills. For 1st grade, the areas that are explicitly tested are letter identification, letter sound identification, phonemic awareness, reading accuracy, developmental spelling, factual question response, inferential question response, and critical thinking question response. This assessment is meant to be given quarterly. According to the 1st grade benchmark, students are expected to enter on a STEP 3 and exit on a STEP 6. Training literature provided by Peshine BRICK Academy provides a breakdown of concepts that should be well understood in order to achieve mastery of each particular STEP level. I have reproduced this chart in part, highlighting STEP 3 through STEP 6, the area that is meant to be tackled in 1st grade.

Step 3: WORD SOLVING AND FLUENCY (Levels 50-100L) Core element & ideal student actions Typical student errors st 1 letter sound: use first letter sounds Mistakes the first sound or mistakes the

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO

when attempting to problem solve first blend unknown words High frequency words 3: use a core of Sounds out word but never puts the high frequency words automatically to sounds all together support reading Subtle pics: uses pictures to solve Cannot solve an unknown word (the unknown words (subtle connection picture can help) between picture and text) No monotone: reread familiar stories Reads story with a monotone/without with some phrasing; use expression on expression; does not take on tone of familiar refrains character Step 3: COMPREHENSION (Levels 50-100L) Fact: recall factual information found in Incorrectly states events in the story the text Cross-check: put together details from Struggles to make sense of the story pictures and text to make sense of a story Story elements I: respond to questions Student cannot state evidence for around setting and characters claims around setting and characters Character feelings: can use personal Struggles to use personal experience in experience along with text evidence to a meaningful way; the student is either draw conclusions about character too reliant on the text evidence or uses feelings personal experiences unrelated to the text Step 4: WORD SOLVING AND FLUENCY (Levels 100-150L) Blends and ends: attend to initial blends States initial blend but gets rest of word and inflectional endings: ing, -ed, r wrong or states correct root word but misses ending (e.g; fish vs fisher, run vs runs) Middle vowels: attending to middle Does not pay attention to the middle of vowel sounds the word High frequency words 4: recognize Does not recognize word that has been many high frequency and other known previously read words quickly and automatically Word families: use word families to Does not make connections between figure out some new words words in the same family to comprehend Self-correct: begin to check one source Does not make self-corrections of information against another to confirm, make another attempts, or self-correct Phrase read: move away from finger Reads word-by-word and doesnt pointing and word-by-word reading; connect to phrasing; points finger at read with 2-3 word phrasing text

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO Re-read: reread to problem solve and confirm new words and to maintain meaning Doesnt reread to confirm meaning

Step 4: COMPREHENSION (Levels 100-150L) Citing evidence I- detail: remember Does not go back to the text and/or details from pictures and text and use pictures to search for specific facts and them to clarify meanings information Story elements II: identify primary Student does not identify the traditional problem and solution in a story structure of a story when trying to comprehend Step 5: WORD SOLVING AND FLUENCY (Levels 150-250L) Punctuate: begin to use punctuation to Reads straight through punctuation assist smooth reading Chunk letters: use letter sound Incorrectly reads a words; says a long relationships and letter chunks to vowel when it should be a short vowel decode many new words; blend consonants and vowels to problem solve new words Read with expression: read embodying Reads with inflection but no a characters emotions recognition of a characters feelings Speed: move quickly through the text: Reads very slowly 40 words per minute Check new words: check new words Does not use all strategies to using multiple sources of information understand new words; relies heavily (visual, syntax, and meaning) on only 1-2 strategies (visual, syntax, meaning) Silent: begins to silently read some of Not able to read silently the time Step 5: COMPREHENSION (Levels 150-250L) Character mental state and traits: draw Student cannot identify what character on personal experiences to respond to is thinking as support for character questions on characters mental state actions Cause and effect: describe the cause Struggles to identify the cause/effect of and effect of specific events an action Character change: describe the cause Struggles to identify the moment a and effect of specific events that led to character changed or the reason why a change in a characters mental state Step 6: WORD SOLVING AND FLUENCY (Levels 250-320L) Chunk syllables: figure out some longer Gets stuck after the first syllable with a words by breaking them into syllables difficult word or chunks

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO

No stop and start: self-correct at the Reads through passage with stumbles, point of error with fewer returns to the so re-reads the whole sentence again beginning of sentences or phrases Vowel patterns: use some complex Does not look for vowel patterns when letter patterns (long vowel patterns, deciphering a new word complex blends) to problem solve while reading Persevere: sustain problem solving of Stops correcting words as the passage words and development of meaning goes along through a longer text Step 6: COMPREHENSION (Levels 250-320L) Story elements III: apply narrative story Student does not apply the literary elements to support comprehension. elements to comprehend the story Use main idea, primary and secondary characters, problem, attempts to solve, resolution to support comprehension Citing evidence II: recall details from Can state inference but without support the story to support answers to from text; does not use background inferential and critical thinking knowledge to interpret actions in a text questions, with some support Clarify ideas I: talk about reasons for Primarily uses text evidence but does an answer and attempts to explain why not support with inference inferences about an idea are valid I have provided this chart because it well explains some of the nuanced differences between each STEP level of mastery. It proved exceptionally useful in pinpointing the specific areas of strength and struggle that LC had as he worked his way through different levels of the STEP exam. Peshine BRICK Academy has not identified a writing assessment for use in 1st grade. In lieu of a standardized test, I gathered assessment data from daily 20-minute guided writing activities that I facilitate during the scheduled guided reading block. The class has been homogenized into 4 different reading groups, and each group participates in several activities on a daily basis: guided reading, independent reading, a computer word-work station, and a guided writing center that I have developed to replace a problematic listening center (our classroom is not equipped with the necessary media equipment for a 7 student listening center). Specific

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO

areas of focus during this center have so far been: capitalization rules, ending punctuation, proper letter spacing, character, setting, and plot generation, personal narrative, and written responses to text. Students have been particularly invested in a processed writing piece about a memorable personal experience, and have taken part in editing both their own and each others work for clarity and written convention. C. Observations made during assessments LC presented confidently at the STEP testing session, displaying no outward nervousness at onset. When doing STEP testing, students are supposed to progressively achieve each step until the teacher discovers the level at which they are not demonstrating mastery. This means that students are often presented with several iterations of the assessment in the same sitting. In the testing session that took place on October 4, 2013, LC achieved STEP levels 2, 3, and 4, and did not achieve STEP 5. On the STEP 4 exam, LC read with a 98-100% reading accuracy, with a reading rate above 51 words per minute. On a 15 word spelling test, he correctly identified 11 short vowel sounds and 11 blends/digraphs, with target levels being 8 correct for both categories. In the reading comprehension conversation, he answered 6 out of 6 questions accurately, successfully showing understanding of factual, inferential, and critical thinking concepts. The STEP 5 exam differs from STEP 4 less in the content and more in the expectation of mastery of said content. The 15 word spelling test is identical, but on STEP 5, students are expected to have 12 or more correct short vowels and blends/digraphs. On this measure alone, LC failed to achieve STEP 5. His reading accuracy rate remained at 98-100%, and his reading rate was in the target 40-75 words per minute. However, on the comprehension analysis, LC

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO

answered 3 out of 6 questions correctly, with 2/2 factual, 1/2 inferential, and 0/2 critical thinking questions answered correctly. During STEP 5 testing, LC displayed a distinct reliance on quoting text exactly in order to answer questions, including inferential and critical thinking questions. For example, when asked Mike tells Keesha that he likes to be by himself. Why does she race with him anyway?, his response was Because she races past the swing and the slide, which was a direct textual quote and did not display deeper understanding of character motivations. When asked How does Mike change in the story?, LCs response was Change how? I dont know. Based on the conceptual analysis chart provided above, LC presented the most difficulty with comprehending character mental state and traits, and comprehending character change. While developmental spelling scores were also a factor in LC not achieving a STEP 5, the concepts of blends and digraphs that were tested on STEP 5 had not yet been explicitly taught in class at time of testing. As such, critical thinking and inferential skills related to characters and character development emerged as his primary areas of weakness. Based on in-class writing assignments, LC demonstrates a similar aptitude for fluently answering factual questions, but a hesitancy to apply critical thinking and inferential skills to broaden a response. When responding to a prompt, he at times struggles to articulate his reasoning for liking or disliking a particular text, and can struggle with making text to self-connections.

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO Part II: A. One-on-one instructional session summaries

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In keeping with the findings identified during assessment, I decided to focus my one-onone sessions on inferential and critical thinking skills, particularly pertaining to understanding character mental state and traits, and character changes. My separate writing interventions have been related to creative writing and character development. I did not specifically do any spelling interventions at this time, however our regular curriculum has introduced the digraphs CK, CH, WH, TH, and SH, and LC has demonstrated proficient mastery of this concept. My first lesson was a series of comic strips that I made specifically for LC, using the BitStrips application that is prevalent on social media. My rational for using a comic strip was LCs demonstrated overreliance on quoting text to answer a question. By stripping away the text with which he is so comfortable, I attempted to push his individual critical thinking and analytical skills. In these comic strips, I introduced two characters in unique situations: a young pirate who was outdoors in the snow without a coat, and an elderly doctor who was alone in the desert. Both of these characters stated something about their mental states that was later changed as a result of a shift in their setting. LC was able to read the comic strips verbatim, and when presented with specific questions as to why the characters mental states shifted, he inferred based on visual cues (a spider, a car, a stingy thing, Christmas decorations) as well as personal experiences (spiders are scary, the car can take you home, Christmas is when Santa comes). This

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO exercise proved successful in helping LC to explore a text in a manner that was not text bound.

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My second lesson focused on his reading a longer passage of Beatrix Potters The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and answering comprehension questions. This text was selected because of a recent extended unit of study surrounding fables and fairy tales that helped familiarize LC with the concept of morals, and also because of a recent class trip to a farm that provided rich hands-on experience with some of the concepts and words introduced in the text sample. LC stopped reading at the point where Peter Rabbit first saw Mr. McGregor, and was asked the following questions:

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Do you think Mr. McGregor was pleased to see Peter? (No, because he doesnt know him and because Peter didnt belong there. Peter eats Mr. McGregors plants)

How did Peter feel? (Sad. Because of Mr. McGregor. Hes trying to find a place to hide because hes being chase and a little afraid)

What do you think Peter did next? (answer detailed below)

LCs responses demonstrated an elevated ability to thinking beyond the text itself. When confronted with the term cucumber frame, he exclaimed like at the SWAG Garden?, referencing our recent class trip. When asked for his imaginative ending to the story, he offered this: Peter Rabbit tries to trick him! Hell say over here and then he looks everywhere, and when he looks away hes facing Peter Rabbit, but Peter Rabbit is gone. This answer demonstrated a level of comfort with creative thinking that was not as evident in previous interactions. Below, please also review a recent writing sample from our guided writing session in it, LC is exploring the use of the exclamation mark by creatively considering an imagined trip to the moon.

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B. Summary and recommendations for future instruction LC benefited tremendously from this approach to inferencing and critical thinking development. For future lessons, he will benefit from being taught concrete, tangible steps

ASSESSMENT-BASED CHILD STUDY: HARNESSING DATA TO toward understanding characters, as well as exposure to new experiences and more diverse

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literature to facilitate text to text connections. I intend to have him create his own comic strip, in which he will develop a character and demonstrate something about their mental state through dialogue and setting. This individualized approach has been tremendously beneficial for both he and I I in seeing that it is possible to help explicitly scaffold a higher level student toward advanced mastery using assessment data as a guide, and he in learning how to not overly rely on his advanced reading skills and instead begin to harness his own very powerful critical thinking abilities.