New Reading Assessments: What’s Coming Down the Pike?

Kelly Nelson
Kelly Nelson

As the world is changing, so is the way that our students are assessed. Traditionally, elementary student reading levels were assessed using a “running record.” This was a leveled passage, approximately 150 words long, which teachers used to note reading errors as students read. As time has moved on, the way that elementary student reading levels are assessed has evolved. Now, many school districts are using online forms of reading assessment such as Amplify and mClass. What’s coming down the pike next? For some districts, Istation is a new way to assess reading levels and skills of elementary aged students.

21st Century Assessments

As technology is becoming more and more prominent, many diagnostic assessments are now done online. Istation, for example, is a company that offers online formative reading assessments and adaptive online curriculum. The Istation program claims to measure and instruct in the following skills:

  • Listening Comprehension
  • Letter Knowledge
  • Vocabulary
  • Phonological/Phonemic Awareness
  • Alphabetic Decoding
  • Self-Selected Reading
  • Spelling
  • Word Analysis
  • Comprehension
  • Reading Fluency
  • Phonics
  • Alphabet and Alphabetic Principle
  • Written Response to Reading Selections

The website explains that assessments take about 30 minutes, and uses results to place students in interactive online instructional activities.

The transition from paper assessments to online assessments has its advantages and disadvantages.


A decrease in the amount of time students are tested
Students are able to test at the same time
Students and teachers often get immediate feedback from online testing
Online testing often adapts to student needs
Online testing at the elementary level helps students become familiar with the online format testing format that they typically use in upper grades and end of course assessments.


Require access to a large amount of technology
Require students to be computer literate
Technical difficulties (network interruptions, etc.) can disrupt them.

Getting Teachers on Board

Regardless of any disadvantages that may arise regarding online reading assessments, the inevitable seems to be that testing is moving in that direction. So how do school leaders get teachers on board with online reading assessments? They can help teachers understand the importance of change when striving to be successful teachers in the classroom.  Successful teachers often seek ideas for coping with and influencing change toward a desired outcome. Leaders can also help teachers get on board with change by helping them see how change will positively impact students.

Helping Students Transition

In order to aid students in transitioning to online assessments, some schools are increasing computer literacy by regularly incorporating technology into classroom lessons, modeling technology use, and offering computer classes. To start out, teaching kids how to navigate the computer and web on a basic level comes first. Then students can transition to more complex computer tasks. Making online assessment fun for students can be helpful too! By incorporating online test review games into instruction, students can enjoy test prep. Students could even learn how to code!

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