Thursday, 17 August 2017

Getting the Level Right

The new school year is getting underway and the hot topic among our new and returning schools is placement. Doesn't sound all that sizzling, but with below-level readers there's a certain level of anxiety that goes with those placement decisions - and for good reason. What students spend their time on will (or should) have a direct correlation to how much growth they will achieve.

Fortunately, getting it right isn't a "once and done" decision, but rather a process of continuous evaluation based on solid research principles and data.

So how do we place students in BrightFish Reading?

BrightFish Reading uses certified Lexile® measures for text complexity to assign stories to grade levels. The Lexile framework has established Common Core stretch bands that cover multiple grades, and weve leveled our stories to fit within that research-based framework.

Lexile measures give us a standard mechanism to determine text complexity and communicate the level of challenge that a student may have with text at a given level.

Since our Cloze pre- and post-test passages are assigned by Lexile level, we know that the text will present a documented level of challenge for a given grade level. Based on the score from a Cloze Test passage activity, we can see where students fall in the reading comprehension zones for the tested level: frustration, instructional or independent (these zones are established by research and validated over 20 years of testing with broad student populations). 

Is that the whole story?

BrightFish Reading uses a text deconstruction process to break down text, so students are able to work at a higher Lexile complexity level than may otherwise be possible. As such, we use a students grade level, 3rd party or state assessment data, and our Cloze pre-test scores to inform decisions on where to place students, but we typically go no further than two grade levels below the current grade band to ensure that students get structured practice with the appropriate rigor.  For example, if a student is in 9th grade and scores 20 percent on the Cloze for grade 9 (frustration zone), we would start by placing the student in a 7-8 stream and monitor the training progress.

What about data?

The advantage of using a browser-based software tool is that it generates a lot of data about what students are doing in real time. Teachers can use the BrightFish dashboard tools to see where students are struggling and get detailed error data to use for remediation, either 1:1 or in small groups. Teachers have access to content from levels 1 to 10, making it easier to change levels - up or down - at any time. The result is a more flexible system that exposes struggling readers to the right level of challenge for their grade level and reading ability, while gradually increasing the difficulty as they move through the program.