Lexia Survey: US Educators Spend Four Weeks Per Year Assessing Student Reading Skills

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In an educational environment in which resources are scarce and every minute of instructional time counts, our nation’s over-dependence on traditional assessment is considered by many to be one of the greatest barriers to success. A national survey by Lexia Learning® shows that educators spend, on average, nearly an entire instructional month (20 days) or 157 hours focused on assessment of reading skills. In contrast, an “embedded assessment” approach can help schools dramatically reduce time and costs associated with assessing student performance.

Teachers spend an average of four weeks assessing students’ reading skills, yet many educators face the challenge of not knowing where to begin when seeking to use student data to inform instruction.

In an educational environment in which resources are scarce and every minute of instructional time counts, our nation’s over-dependence on traditional assessment is considered by many to be one of the greatest barriers to success. A national survey by Lexia Learning® shows that educators spend, on average, nearly an entire instructional month (20 days) or 157 hours focused on assessment of reading skills. In contrast, an “embedded assessment” approach can help schools dramatically reduce time and costs associated with assessing student performance.

“Data-driven instruction is an approach embraced by most educators, but establishing a process and a school culture truly focused on data has proven to be an elusive goal for many schools,” said Lexia CEO Nick Gaehde. “Most data-driven approaches focus on an assessment-laden routine of testing students, gathering and analyzing data, and then making instructional decisions based on these findings. However, this process tends to be very time-consuming, expensive and overwhelming.”

In December 2011, Lexia Learning conducted a survey of more than 7,600 K-12 educators to estimate the amount of time spent administering, scoring, entering and analyzing data for four types of assessments: universal screening, progress monitoring, diagnostic, and outcome. According to the survey, K–5 educators spend, on average, 20 days focused on assessment of reading skills, while one-third of K–5 educators spend one-and-one-half months assessing reading skills. Furthermore, students spend, on average, eight entire instructional days each year taking reading tests.

Although the administration of assessments requires a significant amount of class time, educators indicated that this is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, educators spent nearly triple the amount of time scoring the tests, entering test data into student information systems, and organizing and analyzing the test data. Along with assessments required in mathematics and other subject areas, it is likely that assessment consumes nearly a quarter of educators’ professional time.

“This significant investment raises concerns regarding the time and resources solely dedicated to compiling the necessary data on student performance without incorporating the time necessary to deliver instruction based on what the assessments indicate are areas of need for each student,” said Gaehde.

While technology-based testing methods have grown in prominence, a more efficient model, called embedded assessment, has enabled schools to reduce the amount of testing by gathering student performance data on an ongoing basis during the learning process. In an embedded assessment model, teachers do not need to stop the flow of instruction to measure student proficiency. Instead, they can review real-time performance data and adjust instruction accordingly. Embedded assessment also provides a more accurate measure of student progress, basing conclusions on hundreds or thousands of student responses, rather than a narrow snapshot in time.

An increasing number of schools throughout the nation are approaching instruction and assessment in a more seamless manner through the use of technology. Lexia Reading® is a technology-based system of differentiated learning, embedded assessment and targeted instruction, used in thousands of classrooms as an essential component of reading instruction. Because of its technology-centric approach and use of embedded assessment, program users find that Lexia Reading can help schools reduce dependence on traditional testing methods, and reclaim weeks of instructional time.

“The data we get from Lexia is as important as that data you’d get from state testing, but Lexia delivers these data on a monthly basis without ever administering a test,” said Paul Regan, bilingual coordinator at Tulare City School District in California. “When our students use Lexia Reading, teachers have a tool that shows whether each student will make grade-level by the end of the year.” In the future, Reagan hopes to further expand Tulare’s use of the program and reduce the district’s dependency on the traditional three-week and six-week assessment model currently in place.

An important factor in reducing the use of traditional assessments is Lexia Reading’s embedded assessment measures, called Assessment Without Testing®, which provide norm-referenced data correlated to commonly used assessments such as DIBELS and MAPS. As students work independently on the Lexia software, their performance on skill-development activities is measured, enabling educators to obtain assessment-quality data without administering a test. This dramatically reduces the amount of time spent on assessment, because there is neither a “test event,” nor is there any scoring, data entry or analysis required.

Using embedded assessment to gather student data allows teachers to support learning without stopping the flow of instruction to administer a test. This method of Assessment Without Testing enables educators to reclaim as much as one month of instructional time over the course of the year, and most importantly, allows them to focus their attention and their resources on supporting student achievement.

“While reducing the overall burden of assessment is critical, equally important is connecting student data to instruction,” said Gaehde. “Teachers spend an average of four weeks assessing students’ reading skills, yet many educators face the challenge of not knowing where to begin when seeking to use student data to inform instruction. For many, analyzing and leveraging student data can be the most challenging part of the process.”

In order to create a more complete picture of student achievement, Lexia Reading provides educators a norm-referenced prediction of year-end student performance, as well as a criterion-based skills analysis. With these two factors, educators can prioritize instruction for students at the greatest risk of reading failure and provide the intensity of instruction necessary to help students improve individual performance. This predictive and prescriptive information helps educators tie their data directly to instruction, which is a key element of RTI and other tiered or differentiated instructional models.

“Lexia provides recommended use patterns for each tier of instruction in RTI,” said Kandice McLurkin, coordinator of the Academic English Mastery Program in Los Angeles Unified School District. “If the program’s recommendation for Tier II students is to use the program for 20 minutes per day 3–4 days per week, then let’s make sure that we’re giving them those minutes. And the result? We’d see those students’ performance predictors move from being yellow (some risk of reading failure) to green (low risk).”

About Lexia Learning
Established with a promise to improve student literacy through the use of technology, Lexia has helped millions of students build reading skills. Lexia Reading is used as an essential component of reading instruction in thousands of districts across the country. For more information, visit http://www.lexialearning.com or call 1-800-435-3942.

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Charlotte Andrist
Lexia Learning
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