Our easyCBM benchmark measures are designed to be administered as screening assessments to identify students at risk, at their actual grade in school, in the areas of reading or math. All the screeners are supposed to do is identify those students who are not performing on-grade level and at the 50th percentile. If you already know your students are not performing at their grade in school, or you find a student not performing at grade level, then you should employ the progress monitoring tests. If your students are performing on-grade and at the 50th percentile, then no other testing is needed until the next benchmark testing period.
Benchmark tests are only to be administered to students at the grade they are at in school and up to grade 8. These tests you can administer at any grade up to 8th grade. Trying to adjust a student’s grade through benchmark testing will not give you accurate information
While we don’t have a single test you can have a student take to determine what grade they are functioning at, there is a process you can employ to help determine their skill and grade level. Here is how you can use the progress monitoring measures for your students.
The easyCBM assessments are built on a scale of progressive difficulty, with each grade level becoming more challenging, and each measure type within a grade level also ‘stair-stepping’ up in difficulty. For example, with a sixth grade student, the teacher has the following tests to select from: Multiple Choice Reading Comprehension (which provides information about that student’s skill in literal, inferential, and evaluative comprehension) and Passage Reading Fluency (which provides information about the student’s ability to read aloud narrative text with accuracy).
The teacher begins by administering the on-grade-level measures of Passage Reading Fluency and Multiple Choice Reading Comprehension to that student. Once the scores are in the system, the teacher should look at the student’s graph—if the score falls above the 50th percentile line, then one can say that ‘this particular skill area is not the issue’. If the student’s score falls between the 10th and 50th percentile, then one can say ‘this particular skill is an area of weakness’ and that measure can be selected for progress monitoring.
If the student’s score falls below the 10th percentile, then the teachers know: (a) there may be reason to suspect an even earlier skill deficit (in this case, maybe the student has never mastered phonics, so the Letter Sounds measure would be the most appropriate to use for monitoring progress while at the same time ensuring that the student is being instructed in phonics; (b) if the subsequent test of Letter Sounds (available on the K and Grade 1 “Measure” tab on easyCBM) indicates that the student is at or above the 50th percentile in that skill area, then the issue is probably not one of basic phonics, but is, instead, indicative of a need for additional fluency-building work, but at an earlier grade level (to firmly establish sight words).
If the student scored well below the 10th percentile on the 6th grade fluency measure, the teacher would likely wish to drop 2 grades (to 4th grade)—it is likely that the student would obtain a score that falls between the 10th and 50th percentile lines—this is the range at which the measures on easyCBM are most sensitive to growth/most appropriate to use. If the student’s score is right at or just below the 10th percentile on the 6th grade measure, teachers can bump the student down to the 5th grade instead.
The goal is twofold: to determine what underlying skill deficit might be leading to the student’s ‘not proficient’ score on the state test and to identify the appropriate measure to use to monitor the student’s improving skill as he/she receives targeted intervention/instruction aimed at addressing those skill deficits.
In all cases, the teacher needs to assist the student in moving up to the most challenging grade-level tests they can, as quickly as they can, but each student’s trajectory is likely to be slightly different (it will depend on their level of initial skill/underlying skill deficits; the intensity of intervention provided to him/her; his/her ability to benefit from that particular intervention [as well as motivation to improve]; attendance [a student must be present to benefit from instruction], etc.).
For a 6th grader who requires intensive instruction in phonics (Letter Sounds), it is unlikely teachers are able to make up all the ground they need to get her to on-grade level comprehension by the end of the year, but teachers can certainly make good progress toward that goal, with the intention to continue to make progress in subsequent grades.
Letter Sounds/basic phonics is a skill area in which the teacher should be able to see dramatic improvement in a matter of weeks for older students. This assumes that intensive and appropriate instructional intervention is being provided to ensure the student acquires the skills he/she missed. Ideally, older students (grade 2 and above) should move from 10th percentile to 50th on the Letter Sounds measure in a month’s time or less.
Building fluency takes longer, but average growth is about four to six words correct per minute per week for students who are far behind their peers AND who are receiving instructional interventions specifically targeting fluency building (repeated readings, choral readings, reading aloud to younger children/parents/mentors, etc.). The teacher should see student rate of growth exceed six words correct per minute per week; otherwise, the student is not ‘catching up’ but merely maintaining the existing gap.
For low performing students, the teacher should select an out-of-grade-level fluency measure but move the student up to the next grade level up as soon as he/she performs at the ’50th percentile mark.’ For example, if the teacher starts a 6th grade student on the Grade 2 Passage Reading Fluency measures, the student should be ready to move to the Grade 3 Passage Reading Fluency measures after four to six weeks of intensive fluency building work (designed to reinforce phonics for unfamiliar words and to move additional words into her sight vocabulary through repeated exposure).
Once a student is reading fluently at grade level (50th percentile mark on grade-level Passage Reading Fluency measures), they probably have sufficient fluency skill to be able to start focusing more on comprehension. Until they are at that threshold, it’s likely that the student’s working memory capacity is allocated to decoding unfamiliar words rather than attending to the ‘bigger picture’ of actual comprehension, except at the most literal level. Once a student is able to read more fluently, he/she is able to focus on making meaning from the words in the text and can begin to focus on inferential and evaluative, as well as literal, comprehension.