Formal reading assessments allow a teacher to track a student's progress over a period of time in acquiring specific skills. These tests can be administered quickly, and the results are easily interpreted. The teacher can then use the test data to make informed decisions about teaching strategies and how to drive instruction.

Assessment of Skills

The Dibels (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) Assessment is an example of a formal assessment that tests the following skills: letter-naming, initial sounds, phoneme segmentation, nonsense words, and oral reading fluency. The tests range from one to five minutes in duration, and students are assigned scores that place them as being at-risk, some-risk, or low-risk. Dibels also includes a progress monitoring component, which teachers use to test at-risk students to determine if reading interventions have been successful. Dibels can be administered to students in kindergarten through 6th grade.

Comprehension Assessment

The Accelerated Reading Program measures a student's level of comprehension about books she has read. Schools that use this program have libraries that are supplied with books written at reading levels ranging from kindergarten to high school. Children are initially tested to determine their level; they then read books that have already been labeled for each level. After reading the book, the child takes a computerized test, which usually consists of five to 10 questions. Based on the score, a child earns a number of points. Teachers use this point system in a variety of ways, like awarding extra credit or points for prizes. The goal of Accelerated Reader is to encourage and motivate children to read for meaning and long-term comprehension.