Colorado proposes massive overhaul of approved reading assessments

Suzie Glassman

By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO) The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) proposed a plan to narrow the list of approved interim reading assessments from ten to two by the start of the 2024 school year. The READ Act requires students in grades K-3 to take these assessments to determine whether they have or are at risk for a significant reading deficiency (SRD).

CDE Associate Commissioner of Student Learning, Floyd Cobb, presented his department’s recommendations to the state board of education based on an independent review from The Center for Educational Assessment at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The review evaluated 16 interim assessments and found that only two met the statutory requirements of the READ act, plus additional criteria that they must screen for the recognized challenges of dyslexia. Those two are:

  • mCLASS with DIBELS 8th Edition, 2018: mCLass Lectura 2022 (by Amplify); and
  • Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) ~PALS-K, PALS Plus, PALS Espanol, 1997 (by Illuminate Education, Inc.)

Currently, most K-3 students in Colorado take either the Acadience Reading (formerly DIBELS Next) or i-Ready assessments, neither of which made the cut.

Cobb said they chose Amplify instead of continuing with Acadience because the two companies were in a court battle over the rights to own the mCLASS data management platform, and Amplify won. He said Acadience would have to create a new and separate platform.

Cobb also acknowledged that i-Ready’s current version doesn’t screen for dyslexia, a new assessment criterion.

Based on recommendations from the Dyslexia Working Group and active lobbying by members of the dyslexia community, the CDE asked that READ Act assessments screen for the challenges of dyslexia, including phonological processing, phonemic awareness, and decoding and encoding skills.

Paring down assessments

A separate evaluation of the overall effectiveness of the READ Act by WestEd suggested paring down the list of approved assessments. Their report found that each test used different criteria and cut scores to measure reading difficulties, making it difficult to compare their effectiveness.

One board member expressed concern over what would happen if they voted to approve two assessments. Would the board be committed to only those two, or could they add more in the future?

Cobb said the state must update the list of approved assessments every four years and could add or take away at that time. He said it’s a matter of whether the board wants a breadth of assessments or a limited number.

The state board decided to delay voting on the recommendation until its October meeting so that the CDE could gather more stakeholder feedback.

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