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Do Let’s Go Learn’s scores in comprehension represent an independent or instructional level?

Let’s Go Learn’s Diagnostic Online Reading Assessment (DORA) was adapted from reading assessment protocols created by the Cal Reads program, developed by Dr. Richard McCallum at UC Berkeley. These protocols are consistent with traditional Informal Reading Inventories (e.g., Qualitative Reading Inventory, Diagnostic Assessment of Reading, Basic Reading Inventory) utilized by many teachers and reading specialists. The instructional level is defined as the child’s highest level of mastery on the subtest – or the level right below that where he/she reached frustration. To obtain this level, DORA first presents text to students at a level which should be very easy for them to master. If a student masters that text, the next level will be administered. Text of increasing difficulty will continue to be presented until the student fails to achieve mastery. At this point, the student reaches what is called the ”frustration” level. The last text level before the student reached frustration is called the ”instructional” level; and the text level mastered below the instructional level is called the ”independent” level.

The silent reading comprehension score reported on Let’s Go Learn’s DORA is the instructional level. At this level, the text is not too easy, nor is it too hard; instead, it is the level at which optimal learning should occur with the appropriate instructional support. Some often liken the instructional level to a student’s Zone of Proximal Development coined by psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1978). Once the instructional reading comprehension levels (which are based on grade equivalencies) are determined by DORA, they are converted to Guided Reading, Reading Recovery, DRA, and Lexile levels for the convenience of teachers using these instructional programs. While these converted levels will have a minimal margin of error (as leveling systems are often not exactly one-to-one correlations), they still represent a student’s instructional level for those leveling systems as determined by DORA.

Tags: independent reading level, instructional reading level

  1. Richard Capone
    Reply 10/06/09

    Debbie, there are a few factors to consider. Reading the questions only (not the story) to the student allows us to isolate the ability of the student to read a passage silent to him or herself.  For students who struggle with decoding, if we also force them to read the questions then we are forcing them to perform an extra task that may push them over to frustration and thus invalidate any data we collect.  The second part you brought up is how come our scores seem high for this particular student. For this we must first agree that there is not a single “comprehension” measure.  Comprehension in its definition can vary.  In the DORA, comprehension subtest we take out grade level vocabulary words.  Many comprehension tests are actually vocabulary/comprehension measures.  This means that a student who is low in either one will end up with a low score.  So by removing tough vocabulary and only focusing on comprehension strategies (sentence complexity, passage length, etc.) we are testing comprehension strategies only.  Plus DORA has a separate oral vocabulary measure so we are still getting information on vocabulary.  In practice, what we have found is that many schools are mis-diagnosing students as “low readers” when it is really just low vocabulary.  Many students (some EL some not) have actually very good abilities to process complex sentences and passages but they don’t have the vocabulary to make meaning.  And with most state tests or assessments like SRI (or other Lexile based tests), these measures fool teachers and parents into thinking that the student is low in reading because they can’t read a grade level passage.  But with DORA we tease out these two skills separately.  Hope this helps!

  2. Debbie Gordon
    Reply 09/09/09

    I am concerned that there for the reading comprehension (I’ve just observed a student doing the 2nd grade level)that the questions are read to them?  How is this truly measuring their silent reading level?  The level that the student reached was far above is current reading level in the classroom.

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