Q&A: Assessments in Literacy

student reading


Assessments in literacy are vital to determining a student's skill level regarding specific concept areas. Literacy-focused assessments take on multiple flavors, but the newest literacy-focused assessments in Blue Valley are screening assessments that provide teachers with information to help identify students' needs.


Adam Wade, Blue Valley’s Director of Academic Achievement and Accountability, answers questions about assessments in literacy and how the district ensures students achieve academic success. 


Q: How are Universal Screening assessments different from other assessments students take, such as MAP tests and state assessments?


A: State assessments and MAP tests tend to be lengthy exams with many questions. They’re trying to pinpoint where a student’s skill level is with regard to particular content. The screening assessments are quick, short measures intended to help us garner information and determine the next steps. 


Q: Universal Screeners were implemented in the Fall of 2021. What was the impetus for that?


A: The Kansas State Department of Education started setting policies around dyslexia before Fall 2021 with the mandate that all districts implement universal screening in literacy by Fall 2021. As mentioned above, the goal of a universal screener is to give the teacher quick and actionable information on particular skills. It's crucial that universal screeners are reliable, valid and produce consistent information over time.


student reading


Q: What do the Universal Screeners look like?


A: Screeners look different based on the age of the student. For our younger students, screeners are primarily oral. The teacher administering the screener might hold up a piece of paper and ask the student to identify the letters or sounds on the sheet. While students are reading, the teacher is listening and scoring. 


As students get older, screeners target more advanced skills. So for an upper elementary, middle or high school student, there might be a blend of oral and written pieces. The goals essentially shift from ensuring the student has the fundamental building blocks for reading to measuring how well students are reading and whether they can comprehend what they are reading. 


Q: Depending on the results of a Universal Screener, it might show that a particular student needs further support. How do those next steps unfold?


A: The information on the Universal Screener determines next steps. For example, if the screening reveals a need in the area of phonemic awareness, other tools can be used to help gauge the depth of concern. For middle and high school students, the next step might be a one-on-one oral reading, where a student reads aloud, and the teacher can hear the student’s process. 


Q: What is one of the most important things you want Blue Valley families to know about Universal Screening in literacy?


A:The goal of a screening assessment in literacy is to determine where more information is needed in order to elevate the student's reading level.  It's preventive and provides us with information to best support the student.