Update #2 PM Benchmarks
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Update #2
Literacy Assessment: PM Benchmarks

1. What PM Benchmark data does the Board require on the system tracker?

The Board requires that all students (SK-3) who are reading at levels appropriate to the PM Benchmark Kit have their instructional level, based on accuracy (90-95%), recorded on the system tracker.  All SK-3 students who are reading will have their scores recorded until they have reached level 30.  If they are not yet decoding, n/a is entered on the tracker until they are beginning to read.  

Assessments may be done with students in grades 4-8 if reading behaviours suggest difficulties with decoding print, indicating they would fall at or below level 30 on the PM Benchmarks. Next year, as the system trackers are passed on to junior teachers from the primary grades, this process will be more straightforward. Students’ scores in grades 4-8 continue to be recorded until level 30 is attained. Sensitivity to student self-confidence should be kept in mind when completing this assessment with older students.

The use of the PM Benchmark Kit to determine student instructional reading levels, based on accuracy scores, is part of a system-wide, data gathering process within Halton District School Board.   This data collection process is one part of the board’s implementation of the provincial Early Reading Strategy.  Individual teachers may use a complete PM Benchmark assessment to get a more representative picture of a student’s reading behaviour.   
2. What other data does PM Benchmark provide for the classroom teacher?

A complete PM Benchmark assessment provides classroom teachers with the following data:

Student’s ability to read for meaning: The comprehension component of the assessment, on the back of the reading record, allows the teacher who is familiar with the book to analyze the retelling and to check for understanding.

Student’s ability to integrate meaning (M), structural (S) and visual (V) cues:  By analyzing the student’s reading behaviours, the teacher is able to determine which of the three types of cueing systems (M S V) a student uses when he or she makes an error or self-correction.  When examining the reading record, the teacher considers the type of information (M S V) the student uses in order to gain a clearer picture of how he or she is working with text.  

Student’s self monitoring systems:  Through the analysis of the student’s reading behaviours, the teacher identifies what a student does when he or she self-corrects.   As a student identifies an inconsistency between what was read and the information available in the text, the teacher observes how the student resolves the inconsistency.  Cross-checking strategies such as rereading, repeating, searching, noticing a mismatch between sounds and letters, are important evidence of a student’s problem solving when he or she self-corrects.  These strategies provide further insight into a student’s reading behaviours.  

3. How does the data from PM Benchmark inform instruction in the classroom?

The quantitative data provided by an accuracy score or instructional reading level is limited in how it may be used as a starting point for classroom instruction.  The instructional reading level isolated from other data does not provide the full picture of how a student works with or understands a text.   The qualitative data described in question 2 highlights what a student is able to do when working with text and provides a starting point for instructional decisions in the classroom.

A complete PM Benchmark, along with other forms of assessment, helps the teacher to begin identifying the student’s current phase of reading on the First Steps Developmental Reading Continuum.  At that point, the Major Teaching Emphases for the phase may be incorporated into regular reading instruction.  The PM Benchmark data helps the teacher make decisions about instructional groupings based on similar student needs and interests.  In addition, teachers use the data to determine strategies to be modelled and practised in the context of a balanced reading program (including read aloud, shared reading, guided reading and independent reading).  Finally, the data provides information that helps the teacher make appropriate text selections based not only on instructional level, but also on student interest and understanding.  

4. Why can’t PM Benchmarks instructional level data be used to determine a reading grade on a student’s report card?

The PM Benchmark Kit is primarily intended as a diagnostic reading assessment. The instructional reading level is not intended to determine or equate to a report card grade.  The teacher uses the complete PM Benchmark assessment to identify what a student is currently able to do and to develop an instructional plan for improved student performance.  

The accuracy measure as identified in an instructional reading level identifies only the decoding abilities of a student and does not take into account the other reading behaviours required to understand or respond to a text.  Given that reading is a complex process of constructing meaning from text, the instructional level provides a snapshot of only one aspect of reading.  These quantitative scores are most useful when looked at from a broad, system-wide perspective, rather than as a ‘score’ for any one student.

5. How can PM Benchmarks data be used, along with other assessment tools, to determine the reading grade on a student’s report card?

The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Language Reading strand outlines the expectations for students at each grade level for an entire year.  In long-range plans, teachers identify the overall expectations that are the focus for instruction each term.  Given the process nature of reading, the expectations may remain relatively constant across the year.  In order to determine an overall reading grade, student performance of these expectations should be assessed and evaluated across the four knowledge/skill categories outlined on page 9 of the Language Curriculum (reasoning, communication, organization and conventions).  The term grade should be representative of the student’s highest, most consistent, most recent level of performance relative to the expectations for that term.

To gather evidence of reading performance about expectations across the four knowledge/skills categories, teachers use a range of assessment tools as described in Halton’s Literacy Model (K-3), Section 2: Assessment or Halton’s Literacy Model (4-8): Assessment & Evaluation.   These tools may include; running records combined with retelling; miscue analysis; reading responses, both oral and written, anecdotal records from classroom observations and reading conferences.  

The majority of this data is qualitative in nature, describing what students are able to do.  For reporting purposes, the teacher uses the gathered data to make an evaluative judgement based on the criteria in the achievement level chart.  The more opportunities students have to demonstrate their performance, the greater confidence teachers will have in their final decisions about achievement levels.  

The Halton District School Board
Early Reading Steering Strategy Team
November 2002

Contact Mary Marshall at JWS