Riverside Publishing, a division of textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, offers the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test to teachers and schools seeking to evaluate student reading skills. The 10 tests cover preschool through adult learners. All tests can be taken in traditional pencil-and-paper form, though online versions begin as early as first grade.
The Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test is a multiple-choice test. The timed tests for younger readers last between 75 and 100 minutes, while those in third grade and beyond only get 55 minutes. The text examines five language and reading abilities, including literary concepts, oral language concepts, letter recognition and letter-sound relationships. Readers between first and 12th grade receive scores judging their vocabulary and comprehension to see if they need remedial help, are at grade level or could proceed with advanced instruction.
The GMRT starts with Level PR, or pre-reading, to record the skills of preschoolers and kindergartners. The test relies mostly on pictures to convey meaning. Level BR, or beginning reading, uses pictures and words to test first-graders. Level R, or reading, is divided into seven levels, beginning with Level 1 and ending with Level 10/12. The final level, AR, for adult reading, tests the abilities of college students and other post-high-school participants.
The GMRT allows students to join appropriate instructional groups working at their reading level, whether in separate classrooms or within their class. Test scores measure student progress throughout the school year and from grade to grade. Parents receive progress reports on their students, while schools and district-wide programs gain a common standard to evaluate their reading initiatives.
Comparing test results against instructional methods allows educators to understand how students learn letters, vocabulary and reading comprehension. Identifying weaknesses at the beginning of the year leads educators to develop or adjust teaching strategies to improve student performance and understanding. This can be accomplished at an individual or classroom level. Underperforming schools can adjust their approach to reading at a grade or district level.
Students who take the test from preschool through high school offer researchers a complete history of their reading development. Programs like Reading Recovery and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills rely on the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test to evaluate the effectiveness of their reading programs.
- reading image by William Berry from Fotolia.com