Saturday, March 24, 2012

Assessing a Child's Reading Level

We're making arrangements for Maggie to be evaluated by the public school.  It's one of those things we never wanted to do, but we suspect that we're going to have a hard time accessing services from the county and the state if she has not ever been in The Government System, proving her need for assistance and accommodations.

Before she goes in for their evaluation, however, I want to have a sense of where she stands on their scale.  As a homeschool teacher, I know my students.  It doesn't matter how they compare to others, ahead or behind.  It doesn't matter what grade level they're at.  I'm not going to learn any useful information from a standardized test.  By simple observation and knowing my students/kiddoes, I have what I need to help them continue to learn.

However, that's not how the school views things.  They want grade levels.  They want test scores.  They want percentiles.  They want to compare children and line up a pecking order organize them into skills-groups. 

So how does one determine a kid's reading level?  I have a sense of what Maggie can read easily, what she can struggle through, and what's too hard.  When I hunted for online reading tests, they were stupid.  They had lists of words for kids to read.  That's not a reliable way to test reading!  So I'm having her read to me some chapters of books with an assigned grade level.  If she can read it correctly and understand what's going on in the story, that tells more way more than having her rattle off a list of unrelated (and increasingly difficult) words.

But how do I know whether Little House on the Prairie is a 3rd-grade book or a 7th-grade book?  Guess what?  I found the Scholastic website.  You can type in the name of a book.  If Scholastic carries it, you'll find both the reading level and the interest level.  (By the way, Laura's story is rated as grade 4.3.  I'm skeptical about the interest level, though.  The website says 3rd grade.  I say my 3-yr-old granddaughter likes it, my 8-yr-olds liked it, my teenagers liked it, and I still like it!)   Another graded list is available from a Massachusetts school.  This one can be sorted by reading level, by title, or by author.

So far, it looks like my guess of Maggie's reading level is likely to pan out according to this in-depth test.  I wonder if the school's test will be as realistic.


  1. When I put my girls in the local public school, they did use those words lists to determine reading level. The sight word list was weighed heavily. If they missed one word for a grade, they were recorded at being in the level below. You may want to have Maggie go through the work lists with you before she goes through the testing.

    In my biased opinion from our experiences, the school wants to place the students as low as possible in the initial testing. The school gets more funding when they prove success with the students and the lower the students score, the more in need the child is of the special classes/therapies.

    I don't know if you're planning on using some of the services offered in the school system right away, but that could interfere with her results.

  2. Karen, we don't even know what the school offers as far as special ed. When I've asked, they won't tell me anything because they say they need to evaluate her first.

    I'm not sure what I'll think of their testing results if they're highly inaccurate, either high or low. I do NOT want to enroll her in school. It seems like we're to the point now that we're making a little progress. I hate to think of ditching homeschooling when it's helped her to achieve so much more than any of the experts expected. And yet, I suspect that continuing to homeschool [read: Not Be In The Government's System] may really botch up her health insurance for the rest of her life.