Level Up with Literacy: October Issue

Level Up with Literacy

October 2021 Newsletter: Language & Literacy Assessments

close up of teacher and students hands as they complete a literacy worksheet In this issue:

By: Aaron Weisbrod, SST 1 Consultant

Access to the General Curriculum for All Learners

OCALI’s new 10-part video series provides research-based strategies that are designed to ensure ALL learners have access to the general curriculum, and I highly recommend investing some time into exploring what this amazing new resource offers. Shawna Benson, Program Director of the Teaching Diverse Learners Center at OCALI is an incredible resource, and her modules are short and engaging, yet full of extremely useful content that will help grow mindset, knowledge, and implementation strategies, alongside a variety of tools, strategies, and resources in each module…and they are free!

Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for all Learners is provided by OCALI, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education, The Ohio Department of Education Office of Exceptional Children, and Ohio’s State Support Teams.

One of the State Support Team’s goals is to help get you access to the resources and tools necessary to provide appropriate assessments for ALL learners, so again, we hope you will explore this fantastic resource in order to support your work in literacy instruction with fidelity and equity. This is great material that everyone who works in the area of building skills should have.

Questions? Send Aaron an email or call 419.720.8999.

“Until we find each individual key to unlock access for all learners, their skills, knowledge, and potential growth will remain a mystery.”Shawna Benson, M.Ed., Program Director, Teaching Diverse Learners Center, OCALI

teacher in black jumper reads book to group of young children

Question to Consider

Are we providing aligned, highly rigorous expectations from our assessments, instruction, and learning priorities?

graphic: assessment, instruction, learning profiles


Learn more in Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement, pg. 9.

Remember: assessments do not change outcomes for students  –  good instruction does.
First and foremost, all assessments should be administered with the intent to improve literacy skills and achievement for all learners, including those with the most complex needs. They are tools to help us gather data to inform the instructional decisions for each student.

Assessments do have an appropriate time and purpose.
Assessments help us identify the skills, strengths, and weakness of each student and help guide decisions in literacy instruction and supports. There are a number of different assessment types available to help you:

    • determine if a learner may or may not be at risk for future reading difficulties
    • identify and diagnose reading problems and skills strengths
    • select appropriate evidence-based supports and services
    • provide progress monitoring to determine if adjustments are necessary

“Too often we base decisions impacting students on presumptions rather than authentic data.”Shawna Benson, M.Ed., Program Director, Teaching Diverse Learners Center, OCALI

student in black and white plaid shirt uses notebook and pencil in classroom

There are a variety of tools and resources available to help you gather data to make instructional decisions. It’s important to have an understanding of each type of assessment, and the information each can provide to guide next steps for your learners. The brief descriptions here will provide you with an overview of several types of assessments.

Tier I:  Screening Assessments

provided to all learners at least 3x per year

  • are proactive in identifying students who may be at-risk
  • provide brief, standardized indicators of mild, moderate, or severe risk in language and literacy skills
  • do not diagnose why a student is experiencing difficulty

Tiers II & III: Formal Diagnostic Assessments

administered only to learners identified as needing further testing

  • identifies information about a learner’s mastery of specific skills
  • provides more insight into a student’s reading difficulties
  • allows for data driven decision-making about which language and literacy supports are needed

Progress Monitoring

frequently administered to all learners to ensure progress

  • helps to evaluate instructional effectiveness using student performance data to inform decisions
  • determines whether the instructional supports are working to close the gap as intended
  • identifies students who are experiencing new challenges

Outcome Assessments

administered to all students
varies per grade level

  • provide a bottom-line evaluation of the effectiveness of a reading program
  • informs the school, district, or state about students’ performance in relationship to others in the district, state, or country

group of young students responds to teacher prompt by raising hand

“When we say all, we mean each learner, regardless of identification or placement, across your entire district.”
Jackie Jacoby, SST 1 Urban Literacy Specialist

In order for the data we collect from assessments to be a reliable indicator of student learning, it’s important that all students are given equitable opportunities to demonstrate what they know, using methods and procedures that are meaningful, relevant, and most appropriate for them.


Equitable assessment means that students are assessed using methods and procedures most appropriate for them. While it can be challenging, if not impossible to create individual assessments that directly match each students’ prior knowledge, cognitive style, and cultural experience – we can work to ensure we are as fair as possible when assessing student skill and knowledge.

Seven Steps to Fair Assessment from Linda Suskie, former director of AAHE’s Assessment Forum

  1. Have clearly stated learning outcomes: help your students understand what they are expected to learn
  2. Match your assessment to what you teach: don’t assume students have the necessary skills to meet standards; teach them what you need them to know to be successful
  3. Use different kinds of assessments: give students a variety of ways to demonstrate what they have learned
  4. Help students learn how to do the assessment: set them up for success with rubrics and clear instructions for completing the assessment
  5. Engage and encourage your students: your positivity and belief in your students’ abilities to perform well can influence their assessment potential
  6. Interpret assessment results appropriately: base your observations of the student’s performance in relation to the standard to be learned.
  7. Evaluate the outcomes of your assessments: Were your instructions clear? Did you teach the concept well? Revise your assessments and instructional materials as needed to clarify and better explain the content.


Assessments can give us a lot of information to help us make instructional decisions, but what should we be looking for? Language and literacy assessments must include all literacy skills identified in the Big Ideas of Reading across all tiers of support:

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension

Questions to consider
Are our current assessments giving us the information we need?
Should we “deselect” any assessments before adding new assessments?


We have prepared two tools adapted from A Principal’s Primer for Raising Literacy Achievement (Montgomery, Ilk, & Moats) to guide your assessment discussions. You may choose to use these with your leadership teams when determining which assessments meet your learners’ needs. We recommend starting with the guiding questions, then using the Planning for Assessments chart to fine tune your selections.

If you need additional coaching in this area, please feel free to contact us via email or call 419.720.8999 and one of our literacy consultants can answer your questions.

Download the Assessment Guiding Questions          Download Planning for Assessments: What Tests Do We Need?


“Learner knowledge is often an unopened treasure chest, just waiting to be discovered. We just have to find the right key to open the lock.”Shawna Benson, M.Ed., Program Director, Teaching Diverse Learners Center, OCALI

close up of a blue mug and laptop computer screen with a video conference on screen

literacy leaders network

Literacy Leaders Network  |   State Support Team 1
Learn alongside your peers and network with others across Region 1 as we plan and create a structured literacy model with a comprehensive assessment system. Use evidence-based literacy practices and strategies to promote positive outcomes for all learners following the timelines and requirements of Ohio’s dyslexia legislation.

Sign up to receive access


young teacher sits on green rug with four preschool children

Emergent Literacy Series  |  State Support Team 1
Designed specifically for preschool staff, this 3-part series will increase your knowledge and practice of emergent literacy skills for children, birth through age five. You will discover the importance of developing phonological awareness, oral language and vocabulary skills, and using read-alouds to build literacy skills in young children.

Learn more about this training


Literacy Leaders Network Session Recording  |  State Support Team 1
Can’t get away to join us for the live network? Listen in as Jackie Jacoby, SST 1 Urban Literacy Specialist and Debbie Nagel, SST 1 Regional Literacy Specialist discuss the different types of literacy assessments available to educators in this recording of the February 2020 Literacy Leaders Network meeting.

Listen in


AIM institute logo

Quick Guide for Reading Assessment  |  AIM Institute for Learning & Research
This set of flowcharts provides a brief overview of which assessments are needed, when to administer them, and what action steps should be taken to ensure the student receives appropriate interventions and supports.

Download the file


graphic from the Big Dippers training course

The Science of Reading Short Course  |  The Big Dippers
This self-paced, 10-session course is designed to serve as a primer for the Science of Reading. The training is meant for teachers interested in learning more about what comprises the reading process and lays a solid conceptual and practical foundation for how to teach reading. We recommend starting with the Sneak Peek and Blog.

Learn more about the course


International Dyslexia Association of Northwest Ohio logo

Fall Webinar Series: Digital Access Granted  |   NOBIDA
In honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month, NOBIDA is opening its video vault to grant you digital access to 13 research-based, insightful, and helpful presentations. You can stream the videos anytime during the month of October, and earn 5 CEUs when you watch four all-new videos.

Register to receive access


State Support Team 1 Logo

Contact Us |  SST 1 Literacy Consultants
Help is just a call or email away! Drop us a line with your specific literacy instruction, assessment, or universal access question. We are happy to talk through your concerns and help you determine next steps.

View our staff directory

child reads graphic novel in classroom

In the last issue of Level Up with Literacy, we addressed some misconceptions about dyslexia, provided an overview of Ohio’s dyslexia legislation, and shared tools for helping to keep you on track with aligning your school improvement efforts with the implementation timeline for the new guidelines. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and the resources below will help you continue to learn more about dyslexia and how to support students diagnosed with the condition.

ODE: Ohio's literacy resources will help students see dynamic instead of dyslexic

Ohio Dyslexia Committee |  Ohio Department of Education
The Ohio Dyslexia Committee is responsible for developing many of the implementation guidelines for Ohio’s dyslexia support law. The committee continues to meet and work toward developing the Ohio Dyslexia Guidebook. Recently, the committee voted to approve the definition of “appropriate certification” in identifying and addressing dyslexia under Ohio’s Dyslexia support laws. We will continue to share news and information as they become available.

See the full definition and update

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month

Awareness Month Resources  |  International Dyslexia Association
IDA provides tools, resources, and guidance for educators and families in support of their mission to support individuals with dyslexia and other reading differences. During the month of October, they will share stories from people living with dyslexia, upcoming educational events, fact sheets and more.

See what’s happening with IDA

Leaders AdvantEdge Podcast

Demystifying Dyslexia – Instilling a Love of Reading in all Learners  |  Leaders AdvantEdge Podcast
Get a behind-the-scenes view of Ohio’s dyslexia legislation, the work ODE is doing to help educators implement the legislation, and how practitioners are embracing multi-tiered systems of reading instruction to instill a love of reading in ALL learners in the latest OAESA Leaders AdvantEdge podcast.

Listen to the conversation

State Support Team 1 Logo

Level Up with Literacy is a bi-monthly digital publication that provides information and resources to help you ensure all learners have access to high-quality language and literacy instruction and appropriate interventions from birth through grade 12.

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