The Three Key Assessments for English Language Arts Teachers

August 16, 2018

The Three Key Assessments for English Language Arts Teachers

In a few short days my classroom, like yours, will be abuzz with new faces, and another year of endless potential will begin. Each of our students comes to school with differing ability levels, and that is where our teacher magic comes in as we plan and deliver lessons that work to close the achievement gaps for our struggling learners.

In my role as a special education teacher, I am constantly collecting data on my students. Students who are struggling are sometimes referred to me for analysis. Through assessment, I identify where their gaps are so that we can get those kiddos into the interventions and groupings that will be most beneficial.

I'd like to share three great tools that you can use to take quick English language arts (ELA) data on students that are either in your building right now, or just a click away.


Getting authentic writing samples quickly can be a challenge...

...so my go-to resource for writing is the Curriculum-Based Measurement Written Assessment. All the resources you need to deliver and score this assessment can be found online at Intervention Central . Here you’ll find a probe generator that gives you multiple story starter ideas. Choose and print the one that is most appropriate to the grade level you are working with. You’ll read it with your student and then time them as they construct a response, which takes about five minutes total.

Scoring takes a few times to get down, but the end result will give you a writing fluency score of how many words per minute your student can compose, and a correct word sequence. This is a great tool to use throughout the year because you’ll really be able to see how your students’ writing capacity grows.


When I evaluate a student’s reading fluency and reading comprehension, I use the Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI).

In most buildings, the reading specialist will have a copy of this assessment in the reading room, or you can pick used ones that are the last edition (which is still good to use) on Amazon at a reasonable price. Choose the grade level at which you want to start, and have your student read aloud to you as you time them. Marking on the stimulus sheet as the student reads will allow you to analyze miscues, substitutions, and other errors students are making while reading.

Following the oral reading, you’ll ask students a series of about eight questions–both implicit and explicit. At the conclusion of this assessment,which takes about 15-20 minutes to complete, you’ll be able to pinpoint  the grade level equivalent for your students’ reading fluency, analyze where they are making reading errors, and know their level of comprehension. That’s a lot of data in a very short amount of time.


To get more information about students phonics’ ability, I like to lean on...

...the CORE Phonics Survey. This assessment allows you to analyze students’ decoding abilities and is appropriate for grades K-8. I find it's super helpful with the intermediate grades because you can pinpoint gaps in phonic knowledge so that those can be explicitly addressed. What’s more, you can find the directions in their entirety online. The other benefit of the CORE Phonics Survey is that you  can do it in small chunks, setting aside a minute or two to do word lists with students. It’s also a great tool to tailor a spelling program to your students' needs.

Knowledge is power, and power comes from data! These three quick assessments will give you the knowledge to plan powerful lessons that will meet your students' specific needs to quickly address gap areas in ELA.

Happy assessing!

Tags: teacher tips
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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