Achievement Evaluation Of Fountas And Pinnell Benchmark English Language Essay

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The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, created by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell (Fountas & Pinnell, Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, 2008), is designed to place students appropriately into a guided reading program, show the gains in student achievement, progress monitoring and identify students in need of intervention (those who are not meeting the district's proficiency levels). In short, it determines reading ability. The sub-contents addressed include: Word Analysis Skills, Reading Strategies, Comprehending Reading Materials, Literary Elements and Techniques and Literary Works.

The test consists primarily of running records, in which the teacher records oral fluency, reading errors and self-correction ratios. In addition, it is followed by a retelling and comprehension conversation between the student and teacher. Finally a writing prompt (optional) is given to the student. In the setting where I am directly working with the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark, it is required that all students are required to complete the writing prompt. The test is administered in kindergarten through eighth grade at the end of each quarter. The assessment usually takes twenty to thirty minutes. The assessment could take longer if more than one benchmark is needed to find the appropriate level.

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The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System allows the educator to use the information obtained in a variety of ways. The assessment's directions suggest that the administrator find three levels of text difficulty to determine the student's hard, instructional and independent levels. This procedure of finding all three levels may vary depending on the school or district requirement for quarterly benchmark levels. The information is then used to determine a student's guided reading level, to create a focus for instruction or goal for the student, and to determine text level for independent reading. In addition, the assessment identifies students who are falling below district proficiencies and who may need additional services. (Resnick & Hampton, 2009) The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment can be used for state, district, school and classroom data collection. This information can help to determine instructional changes in the classroom and professional development needed for educators. (Fountas & Pinnell, 2007, cited in www.heinemann.com)

In addition to an accuracy percentage, reading rate, self-correction rate and fluency score, the assessment has a "Comprehension Conversation" that completes the assessment procedures. Students are required to read a text and to have this comprehension conversation, with specific prompts to determine the student's ability to "Thinking Within the Text (getting the literal meaning by processing words and stated ideas), Thinking Beyond the Text (getting the implied meaning and synthesizing information) and Thinking About the Text (responding to the author's craft)." (Fountas & Pinnell, 2007) The content that is covered in the benchmark includes reading accuracy, reading comprehension, reading fluency and self-correction ratio. This is similar to the informal assessments being given to students throughout a literacy block in a reading workshop approach.

This assessment can be used both formatively and summatively. It is a "standardized, teacher-administered, one-on-one assessment; hand-scored by the teacher". (Fountas & Pinnell, 2007, cited in www.heinemann.com) The assessment should be administered by the classroom teacher, after she has been trained to administer the test which will decrease the occurrence of mistakes in administration and facilitate standardized results. A video is provided to view for staff development or individual teacher viewing. This can help to ensure that the assessment is delivered in a standardized way.

The Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) addresses five areas addressed by the National Reading Panel as "fundamental to student success in literacy acquisition" are assessed in the BAS. These areas include phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. The assessment also addresses student motivation and interest in overall reading. (Fountas and Pinnell, 2011) According to the official field study document of the assessment,

After the field data was collected and analyzed to determine if the objectives were met, reports were developed and used to determine the value and helpfulness of the BAS. After using and incorporating ongoing feedback, the developers and authors of the BAS made minor changes and improvements to the program. An independent data-analysis team assessed the Benchmark Assessment System's reliability and validity at the end of the study. In addition, a specific process was used to ascertain the text leveling of the books used in the assessment system.

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A total of 497 students from grades K-8 were used in the field testing. For System 1 (levels A-N) 252 students were field tested. System 2 (levels L-Z) field tested 245 students. One of the goals of the research was to identify "typical students" from the United States, so the sites where they students attended school had diverse socioeconomic statuses. The students were also from many different geographic locations and various ethnicities. The students were all proficient at speaking English and chosen based on their ability to read and understand books close to their grade level, or slightly above their grade/reading level.

Before the assessments or testing took place, the examiners were trained by Fountas and Pinnell in the assessment procedures and specific administration protocols. Thirteen "field-testers" (which were all educators with backgrounds in giving running records and assessing reading levels) determined the participation of the student by discussing their reading capabilities with their individual teachers. The examiners were not associated with the areas the students were from which led to objectiveness in choosing students, as well as assessing the students without any prior knowledge or bias. Twenty-two schools took part in the field testing of one or both of the assessment systems the following areas took place in the field testing: (Fountas and Pinnell, 2011, pp. 2-3)

"Boston Metropolitan area 1 examiner; 1 school / Providence, Rhode Island 1 examiner; 2 schools / Houston Metropolitan area 2 examiners; 5 schools / Los Angeles area 4 examiners; 6 schools / Columbus, OH, area 3 examiners; 5 schools / Orlando, FL, area 2 examiners; 3 schools. (Field Study of Reliability and Validity of the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems 1 and 2)." (Fountas and Pinnell, 2011, pp. 2-3)

Assessment Appearance and Content

The assessment includes two options of books for each level- "System 1 (Grades K-2, Levels A-N) contains 28 Books (14 Fiction and 14 Nonfiction) and System 2 (Grades 3-8, Levels L-Z) contains 30 Books (15 Fiction and 15 Nonfiction). The levels of the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment are described as a gradient of text difficulty based on a "continuum of characteristics" that represents each reading level for a particular text. Books are reviewed and evaluated at each level using the following ten characteristics: (1) genre/form; (2) text structure; (3) content; (4) themes and ideas; (5) language and literary features; (6) sentence complexity; (7) vocabulary; (8) word difficulty; (9) illustrations/graphics; and (10) book and print features." Trained educators determined a level of text after analyzing the books and using a reliable process based on the above mentioned ten factors. When this was completed, the authors of the Benchmark Assessment System (Fountas and Pinnell) analyzed the books. The text were made to match the continuum of text level difficulty then reviewed with a common process as determining text level difficulty on other books. (Resnick & Hampton, 2009)

The BAS is held in a durable cardboard box containing all of the materials needed for the assessment. A CD is available to print off the forms, as well as a blackline masters book for forms. The books are held in sections marked with the level for easy identification. The form has the running record first, then fluency check and self-correction ration. After that the comprehension conversation is addressed as well as the writing portion. All of these are usually stapled together by the teacher to be stored in the student's file or assessment folder.

The Assessment Guide to the BAS describes the administration of the assessment as follows:

The student's appropriate reading level for the assessment to be administered is based in the student's current guided reading level, or can be determined by a "Where to Start" word list that was developed by the authors to assist examiners in quickly placing a student at his or her appropriate reading level. Next, the test administtator is to assess the student's ability to read and comprehend three levels of books. They are to determine one book that is easy - the student's independent reading level; one book that offered just enough difficult vocabulary and/or concepts to make the reading interesting and challenging - , the student's instructional reading level; and a third book that was too challenging - the student's hard reading level. Accuracy of reading guidelines, consistent with Fountas and Pinnell's framework (2006b), is as follows: independent level (95-100 percent accuracy); instructional level (90-94 percent accuracy), and hard level (below 90 percent accuracy). (Fountas & Pinnell, Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark 1 Assessment System, 2007, pp. 180-181)

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The assessment should be given in the classroom or other familiar setting. A reasonably quiet and comfortable environment is necessary so that distractions do not interfere with the assessment. All materials should be ready to go accessible to the teacher, so that the assessment may run smoothly with few distractions. If the student seems to be getting frustrated after reading one or two texts, it may be necessary to stop the assessment and begin at a later time. The text is not long and it is engaging for the reader. They are at an appropriate interest level for the age group they are designed for.

Each of the areas assessed relates to the content and sub-content (in various levels) taught to kindergarten through eighth grade students during their literacy block. The BAS lets the administrator think about, assess and identify a variety of different skills and strategies the reader may have strengths or deficits in. "It is designed to measure progress in each of the sub-skills in a way that informs instruction. It is linked to a continuum of observable behaviors to assess and teach for at every level." (Fountas & Pinnell, 2007) Each teacher in grades kindergarten through eighth grade has a copy of the continuum. The assessment format is similar to the informal assessments (running records and conferring with readers) used in the classroom. These informal assessments are used periodically throughout the quarter. The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System does require a more in-depth conversation than traditional classroom conferences.

The student's fluency level is also assessed using by how the student will phrase or group words, specifically this is measured by how they use intonation, put appropriate stress on phrases or words, and the use or neglect of pauses (such as with punctuation or natural pauses). (Fountas & Pinnell, Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark 1 Assessment System, 2007) Students adhere to "the author's syntax or sentence structure, reflecting their comprehension. Readers are expressive; their reading reflects feeling, anticipation, and character development." (Fountas & Pinnell, 2007) Once a student's instructional reading level is determined, the teacher and student will begin to have a "comprehension conversation" about book the student has just completed. As the conversation is taking place, the test administrator may give specific prompts (stated on the actual assessment) if the student stalls or is unable to continue with the natural conversation. When the assessment is complete, the administrator gives the student a score based on their understanding of what she has read and the conversation she had with her teacher. There are specific guidelines stated on the assessment for a comprehension score. The BAS assesses the student's ability to think within the text, beyond the text and about the text. A score of zero to three is given for each of these sections.

Evaluating the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System

A review of the benchmark assessment shows no bias towards individuals or groups based on race, ethnicity, gender or disabilities. Students with disabilities are given the assessment that aligns with their individual progress along the literacy continuum and text gradient for the reader. At times, when the fluency level is timed, an educator may note on the side specific speech issues. All other accommodations as mandated by their IEPs are allowed. The assessment is used to determine reading ability; therefore, students with IEPs requiring that test be read for certain circumstance are not allowed this accommodation for the benchmark. The wording and content of the benchmark assessment is predominately age and grade appropriate. However, for students reading extremely below their age or grade level peers, the text may seem immature for their age. The gradient levels of difficulty of the text chosen for the assessment were carefully thought out and field tested.

I feel the content validity of the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System can be improved by adding a more rigorous requirement in the writing about reading area. I do not feel that one prompt adequately show how a student can write about reading. In addition, I feel that as students move into the older grades, that comprehension should be judged more on the students writing about the text than a comprehension conversation. One other area of the assessment could be improved. There are only two books, one fiction and one nonfiction, at each level. This does not give educators much room for error or special education teachers room to reassess at a similar level, identifying strengths in a particular sub-content and not just text level gradient.

Another area for improvement would be in the area of fluency. The fluency level of the student is noted in the assessment, but not used as part of the assessment's criteria for "passing" a level. Therefore a student could be dis-fluent and still move on to the next level of text difficulty. This could eventually cause serious problems in both classroom teaching and further assessment. It may skew the actual proficiency level of the student's reading.

The Benchmark Assessment System is both objective and subjective in different portions of the assessment. The running record, self-correction ratio and reading rate are objective. However, the fluency rate can be subjective. Teachers with inadequate experience assessing fluency or understanding the dimensions of fluency may not score the assessment accurately. In addition the comprehension conversation and analysis of the writing about reading are subjective.

The assessment can assess both general and learned knowledge depending on whether it is given formatively or summatively and the level of text difficulty addressed. If a teacher were to stop at any one instructional level of text difficulty, it could be used as an assessment of the student's general knowledge. If it is given after instruction in a particular area (fluency, comprehension, and specific level) and administered until reaching the highest instructional level then the assessment could be used to assess learned knowledge. These aspects make the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System a valuable resource for educators.

There is at least one item per target, with some items having more than one item per target. Some of the sub-content areas did not have a target for each taxonomy level, but with further investigation (into the upper grade Benchmark Assessment, possibly) it would most likely cover each taxonomy level. In addition, each item does belong on the assessment and relates to a specific sub-content area/taxonomy level. The Illinois Reading Standards addressed include: 1.A.1b Comprehend unfamiliar words using context clues and prior knowledge; verify meanings with resource materials, 1.B.1c Continuously check and clarify for understanding (e.g., reread, read ahead, use visual and context clues, ask questions, retell, use meaningful substitutions), 1.B.2d Read age-appropriate material aloud with fluency and accuracy, 1.C.2b Make and support inferences and form interpretations about main themes and topics, 1.C.2d Summarize and make generalizations from content and relate to purpose of material, 1.C.2e Explain how authors and illustrators use text and art to express their ideas (e.g., points of view, design hues, metaphor), 1.C.1f Use information presented in simple tables, maps and charts to form an interpretation, 2.A.2b Describe how literary elements (e.g., theme, character, setting, plot, tone, conflict) are used in literature to create meaning and 2.B.1a Respond to literary materials by connecting them to their own experience and communicate those responses to others. (Illinois State Board of Education, 1997)

Classroom Assessment Blueprint and Learning Targets

The classroom assessment blueprint and the list of learning targets appear below. Assessment items and the number of the associated learning target are included in the blueprint.

Remembering

Understanding

Applying

Analyzing

Evaluating

Creating

Total

Targets

Word Analysis Skills

1. Identify the meaning of unfamiliar words using prior knowledge

2. Discover the meaning of unfamiliar words using context clues.

22. Monitors own understanding and accuracy.

20. Constructs literal meaning of the text through solving words.

4

Reading Strategies

4. Reads primarily in larger, meaningful phrases or word groups.

23. Predicts information about the text.

5. Demonstrates fluency by reading using mostly smooth, expressive interpretation and pausing guided by author's meaning and punctuation.

3. Assess and clarify for understanding (e.g., reread, read ahead, use visual and context clues, ask questions, retell, and use meaningful substitutions).

4

Comprehend Reading Materials

6. Recall ideas by reference to details in the text.

18. Identify the main ideas and supporting details of a story or fiction passage.

9. Summarize a story or non-fiction passage.

19. Demonstrate excellent understanding of the text through summarizing. (Includes almost all important information and main ideas.)

10. Demonstrate understanding of characters in a story or non-fiction passage (i.e. through retell).

11. Identify connections with prior knowledge or personal experiences.

25. Infers what is implied but not stated in the text.

22. Monitors own understanding and accuracy.

** Two places**

17. Tell the main idea of a non-fiction paragraph.

27. Write a response about the reading (from given prompt).

10

Literary Elements and Techniques

7. Define setting in a story or fiction passage.

8. Recall sequence of events.

12. Summarize the major events in a narrative.

29. Demonstrate an understanding of the craft and structure of a text (literary language, story structure, perspective, etc.).

16. Distinguish elements of the author's craft.

30. Support knowledge and ideas (and act on them) to include one's thinking by writing in response to text

15. Construct chronological sequence of events after reading a story or fiction passage.

7

Literary Works

24. Identify key details when summarizing a story or non-fiction passage.

28. Remember and report key ideas and details from texts, including understanding characters.

13. Point out the author's purpose.

14. Interpret how the author's purpose affects the interpretation of the reading selection.

26. Tells new information by synthesizing and changing own ideas.

5

Learning Targets

Students will be able to:

1. Identify the meaning of unfamiliar words using prior knowledge.

2. Discover the meaning of unfamiliar words using context clues.

3. Assess and clarify for understanding (e.g., reread, read ahead, use visual and context clues, ask questions, retell, and use meaningful substitutions).

4. Reads primarily in larger, meaningful phrases or word groups.

5. Demonstrates fluency by reading using mostly smooth, expressive interpretation and pausing guided by author's meaning and punctuation.

6. Recall ideas by reference to details in the text.

7. Define setting in a story or fiction passage.

8. Recall sequence of events.

9. Summarize a story or non-fiction passage.

10. Demonstrate understanding of characters in a story or non-fiction passage (i.e. through retell).

11. Identify connections with prior knowledge or personal experiences.

12. Summarize the major events in a narrative.

13. Point out the author's purpose.

14. Interpret how the author's purpose affects the interpretation of the reading selection.

15. Construct chronological sequence of events after reading a story or fiction passage.

16. Distinguish elements of the author's craft.

17. Tell the main idea of a non-fiction paragraph.

18. Identify the main ideas and supporting details of a story or fiction passage.

19. Demonstrate excellent understanding of the text through summarizing. (Includes almost all important information and main ideas.)

20. Constructs literal meaning of the text through solving words.

22. Monitors own understanding and accuracy.

23. Predicts information about the text.

24. Identify key details when summarizing a story or non-fiction passage.

25. Infers what is implied but not stated in the text.

26. Tells new information by synthesizing and changing own ideas.

27. Write a response about the reading (from given prompt).

28. Remember and report key ideas and details from texts, including understanding characters.

29. Demonstrate an understanding of the craft and structure of a text (literary language, story structure, perspective, etc.).

30. Support knowledge and ideas (and act on them) to include one's thinking by writing in response to text.