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QITABI Universal screening formative assessment tools: A complementary approach to standardized assessment of early grade reading skills

Wed, April 17, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront E

Proposal

The purpose of this paper presentation is to discuss the Quality Instruction towards Access and Basic Education Improvement project’s (QITABI) Universal Screening (US) tool as being an essential assessment practice of basic reading skills in the classroom. At the presentation, we will share the tool, results, challenges in administration and lessons learned. World Learning, an international non-profit organization, has been implementing QITABI in Lebanon since 2014.
The US tool was adopted by QITABI to complement the early grade reading (EGR) assessment standardized tests conducted at a national level in Lebanon. During a two-year implementation of EGR / Balanced Literacy (EGR/BLA) intervention program, US was applied yearly to assess students’ acquisition of basic reading skills in Arabic in grades 1 to 4 in 260 schools. While US is formative and aims at continuously monitoring students’ progress and informing teacher planning, EGRA is more of an achievement standardized test that can inform policy makers for education reform.
Context of the problem - Effective reading programs in primary grades rely on continuous assessment that can inform practitioners about the quality of instruction, students’ progress, and planning for different abilities in the same classroom (Tomlinson). Internationally, US tools are widely used for establishing students reading baseline, monitoring students’ performance on basic reading skills such as: letter knowledge, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and comprehension, and measuring end of year progress. Data throughout the year is used as evidence to inform teacher planning and guide instructional adaptation to multi- tier level instruction (Center on Response to Intervention).
In Lebanon, reading assessment relies mainly on a summative approach at the level of text comprehension, verbally and in writing. Little attention is given to applying formative assessment of students’ basic reading skills and to collecting evidence that inform and guide instruction in a responsive classroom (Kozma). Within QITABI, EGRA tests were also conducted on a national level aiming at providing valuable evidence to policy makers and Lebanon education system after two year of school EGR/BLA intervention. To respond to the vital need of introducing formative assessment into the reading classroom, QITABI built the capacity of Arabic language teachers on conducting US within a multi – tier approach and planning instruction as a response to their students’ needs.
Methodology – QITABI’S US tool measures students reading skills in reading accuracy (with diacritics) and comprehension without time constraint. It is administered by Arabic language teachers during individualized assessment sessions three times per scholastic year to diagnose students’ reading abilities, track and monitor students’ reading progress, and measure students’ improvement on reading skills by comparing.
The tool incorporates several formative assessment tools that measure concept of print, alphabet knowledge, sight wods, and running records reading skills.
Results - The Pre-running records of student’s reading level at the beginning of the academic year, was compared to the Post-running records of student’s reading level at the end of the academic year. The analysis showed that 79.4% of 10,841 learners in grades 1 to 4 of 157 schools have shown an improvement in at least one reading level during 1 year of EGR/BLA intervention. Among this population, 58.7% achieved the beginning of grade benchmark, which infers that some students were way behind their grade level, and that even though they showed improvement in reading levels, they did not manage to reach their grade level within the same academic year. Nevertheless, 34.8 % achieved the end of grade benchmark. The reading level reached for each student depends on the initial (pre-) reading level he/she were at. As expected, higher percentage of students in grade 1 showed improvement of at least 3 reading levels (28.9%), while, the highest percentage for students within a grade achieving one reading level improvement was in grade 4 (43.4%). This is because younger learners have more tendency to acquire literacy and advance than older ones.
Improvement of Scores by Domain of Universal Screening - Results shows that generally the students reading skills, including concept of print, letter/sound identification and high frequency words, has improved significantly during Year 4 of QITABI. This improvement ranged between 25.3 to 33.6 percent increase in the means of the different subtasks. Universal screening was also used to assess the teachers’ implementation of the QITABI EGR/BLA approach in teaching Arabic language through the students’ performance. For example, to evaluate whether the students of teachers trained on EGR and ICT showed better improvement in their performance in the universal screening, than others, Independent sample t-test was performed for each kind of trainings to check the difference in the means of number of levels of reading improved. It was found that students whose teachers completed ICT training have improved significantly better than those whose teachers didn’t. Same for the performance of students of teachers who completed EGR training versus the students of those who didn’t. This was informing to stakeholders of the need to adopt QITABI EGR/BLA –ICT blended approach when training teachers to have better students results.
Limitation of Universal Screening design - All teachers who have conducted the universal screening were either coached or trained and were applying the EGR/BLA to some extent. This has two limitations. The first one that it is reported by the teachers themselves which might affect the quality if the teacher was not coached enough. The second limitation is that we do not have data on the performance of teachers who are not implementing the universal screening, either because they were not trained/coached on how to do it, or because they are not implementing the EGR/BLA approach.
Findings from Universal Screening assessment informed Arabic language teachers planning and practices, principals and parents on students’ reading performance. Data led stakeholders to reflect on the types of needs identified at grade level, and how to adapt teaching to respond immediately and effectively. This paper presentation will conclude with a series of recommendations to consider when developing and administering formative assessment tools to measure reading gains.

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