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Assessment Text Reviews

Reading and Writing: Grade by Grade

Primary Literacy Standards for Kindergarten through third grade

Text Reviewed by Karen Lisa

Written by: New Standards Literacy Committee

Publisher: National Center on Education and the Economy and the University of Pittsburgh

Copyright: 1999

ISBN# 1-889630-90-X


Synopsis of Content:

This book was written by the New Standards Literacy Committee, which consists of 21 people well known educators and researchers in the field of literacy.  The book was a result of two years of collaboration among these people, who represent differing viewpoints about the field of literacy. The object was to create a book that people could use as a companion to their state standards.

The book is well organized and laid out. The first part offers an overall view of what learning to read and learning to write entail. Assumptions about reading and writing, that have been incorporated into the standards, are explained here. The different components of a balanced literacy program are explained as well. The language was such, that you could use pieces of these chapters to send home to parents as a good explanation. In fact, these sections offer good analogies to explain these processes. For example, learning the print-sound code is compared to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. 

After a chapter describing the New Standards Primary Literacy Standards, the book then launches into a detailed description of the three basic standards for reading and writing in each of the primary grade levels. The standards spell out what students are expected to do cognitively and behaviorally, rather than what curriculum and instruction should look like. At the beginning of each grade level, the book doffers an explanation of what reading and writing are like for children at that age. Each grade level then contains a descriptor of the standards, as well as examples of student work which meets and doesn’t meet the standards set forth for that grade level. These samples are accompanied by pictures, as well as a commentary about the student work. After extensively covering each grade level individually, the book ends with samples of children’s work that show their growth over a year. Samples are included for someone in each of the grade levels. This writing collection area then ends with samples showing a child’s growth over the four years.

The book doesn’t assume everybody reading the book knows the lingo it is using, and it does a good job of offering clarifying definitions throughout it. For example, it includes a description of what a consonant digraph is, as well as an example of this. It offers lots of suggestions to help professionals, such as good read aloud books for different grade levels, as well as lists of leveled books you can use. The book contains large margins for writing notes. It uses different fonts and sizes of test, as well as different colored print, which make reading easier, and more interesting. Sidebars contain a site map to reference the three standards for that area so you can refer to this when looking at a sample. In addition, it shows you which standard is being highlighted, as well as which standards are coming up.

Two CD’s accompany the test. One focuses on reading, the other on writing. I actually enjoyed these much more than the test. The CD’s include repetition of what the test includes, as well as a few additional samples. They also offer other features, such as audio and video. You can watch kids reading and writing, as well as listen to the teacher commentary about the event. I found the commentary much easier to deal with when hearing and watching, rather than just reading it. The other neat thing about the CD is that if you if you were looking at one component of reading, for example, phonemic awareness, you could view a first grader and hear the commentary, but then you could also view another child at a different grade level dealing with the same component. I found this extremely helpful.

Possible Uses of the Test

Some ways this text could be used by practitioners include:

  • It provides samples of student work for each of the standards. This would be good in determining anchors to use when assessing.
  • It could be used for inservice training. The CD could be run using a video projector, and aspects of it could be shared for mutual viewing. This would be particularly beneficial if trying to show teachers at different grade levels, the developmental span of reading and writing. It is often hard to see this when you remain grounded in your own grade level.
  • You could include samples from the video at a parent meeting to illustrate a particular point.
  • If a teacher was unclear about what achieving a particular standard would look like, he or she could use the text or the CD to get some examples of student work.

Cautions for Using the Test

  • As I first started reading this book, I thought it was wonderful. It was able to explain things using user friendly language. As I got into each grade level, however, I found the text hard to follow.
  • Remember that the samples included are just that. Don’t get too caught up in whether the students samples in your class match the books. At first, I found student samples helpful, but I also felt that they only included very high achieving student samples. For example, a sample of a first graders “Report of Informational Writing” included a sample of a child’s 10 page report entitled “War in the History of America.” This can be frustrating or discouraging to a teacher who does not see such work in his or her own classroom. Remember that you need to abide by your state standards, not this book.
  • This other caution I have is the different interpretations that teachers could make of the same standards. Although the authors state that each standard is spelled out clearly, I saw lots of room for interpretation. It is probably an impossible task to ever standardize elements such as this.


Collaborative Assessment in Reading and Writing

Text Review by Suzanne Tighe

Written by: Susan Mandel Glazer and Carol Smullen Brown with Phyllis DiMartino Fantauzzo,

Denise Healy Nugent and Lyndon W. Searfoss

Publisher: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc. (Norwood, MA)

ISBN#: 0-926842-25-0

Copyright: 1993


Synopsis of Content:


This Epilogue clearly outlines the objectives of the authors of the text:


        “We strive to create independent teachers and learners who:

  • take risks
  • take responsibility for their learning
  • make decisions about how and what they will learn; and
  • feel in control when using language arts to learn.” (pg.165)

PORTFOLIOS AND BEYOND:  Collaborative Assessment in reading and Writing is the culmination of twelve years of work. The authors intend their work to guide teachers toward alternative forms of assessment that help both teacher and learner to become active in the assessment process. As our understanding of literacy changes, so must our assessment techniques. Our beliefs around literacy no longer support the use of standardized testing alone. As classrooms become more democratic, as teachers and students share in the decision making process, instruction and assessment tools have become more integrated into the everyday routine of the classroom.

Chapters one, two and three provides the authors rationale for their belief in alternative forms of assessment and how to go about setting up a classroom that supports them. These three chapters provide a framework that individual teachers can adapt to meet the needs of their respective clientele. Chapter two, written by Lyndon W. Searfoss, provides the reader with an objective way of looking at the overall classroom environment and its effect on literacy learning. Several checklists are provided that allow the reader to assess his or her classroom. This chapter introduces several major points discussed later in the book.

Chapters four, five and six describe different techniques for assessing writing, comprehension processes and comprehension products. These chapters provide a wide range of assessment tools that are appropriate for different ability levels. The use describes the samples and clarifies the processes that the various checklists, progress reports and interviews illustrated.

Chapter seven restates how our beliefs around assessment have changed. Therefore, how the information is reported needs to change. The authors support an assessment system that uses multiple tools, environments and strategies for collecting, organizing and interpreting data. Various samples are presented to demonstrate how these tools can be utilized.

Chapter eight is a collection of frequently asked questions the authors encountered while lecturing. The authors discussed the questions in a dialogue format that created a sensation of speaking directly to the authors. Some topics discussed are reporting progress, organization and getting started.  

Possible Uses of Test:


Ways that educators could use this test:

  • To develop an awareness of alternative assessment techniques for literacy
  • To serve as a resource material on organization of materials
  • To serve as a focal point for discussions around implementing alternative assessment tools
  • To serve as a resource for creating individual assessment pieces for classroom use
  • To provide samples of alternative assessment tools that can be used to educate the community about alternative assessments 

Cautions for Using the Text:

This text describes various alternative assessment techniques that can be used in the classroom. However, the techniques being used require preplanning on the part of the teacher. It would be difficult to implement all of the techniques discussed in this text. I would suggest starting with one technique and becoming comfortable with it before implementing another method.

In addition, this book is not a set of directions. The teacher needs to feel comfortable enough with his or herself and make the necessary adaptations to make the techniques work in their classroom.

Assessment Is Instruction: Reading, Writing, Spelling, and Phonics for all Learners

Written by: Susan Mandel Glazer

Publisher: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc., Norwood, MA

Copyright: 1998

ISBN: 0-026842-77-3

Synopsis of Content:

Susan Mandel Glazer’s book was written to provide teachers information, tools, classroom management techniques, and strategies to help balance the challenges of literacy instruction and assessment for children from age five through age eighteen. Many of the tools were developed and have been used and revised at the Center for Reading and Writing at Rider University.

Glazer is a proponent of teaching students to monitor and assess their own learning. Susan believes students of all ages can monitor what they know to help inform them about what they need to know to begin assessing their own learning.

The text includes nine different chapters and some additional information. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of literacy including portfolios, effective classroom strategies, classroom organization, comprehension, composition, phonics, spelling, word study, and reporting progress. Within each chapter there are strategies for teaching students what they need to be successful at assessing themselves, tools for student to use, and examples of student work. This text also includes an epilogue, lists of books to be used with students for a variety or purposes, a glossary of terms for a risk, diverse and difficult learners, behavior checklist for students with learning problems, progress report forms, references, and author and a subject indexes.

The first three chapters provide readers with a historical perspective as Glazer examines where literacy has come from and where it is going. The chapters include information on the history of literacy assessment, the inclusion of portfolios, and where Susan Glazer feels we are today with literacy assessment.

Chapters four and five focus on the necessary components for effective classrooms that support student growth and development. Glazer believes the best classrooms are child-centered. To achieve this, she recommends teachers provide students with consistent, scheduled blocks of uninterrupted time. Consistent praise, language, and vehicles of communication used by teachers are critical for students to best monitor their own reading and writing. Teachers must also be honest with their feedback when guiding students to become independent learners.

Chapter six focuses on comprehension. Because Glazer believes we are never sure about the causes of comprehension difficulties, it is imperative that teachers provide students with tools and strategies for story retelling and writing and talking about their reading. Many graphic organizers, students samples, and strategies are described to assist teachers and students in this process. Glazer emphasizes the importance of having students discuss what they read so they become productive readers.

 Composition, phonics, spelling, and word study are the focus of chapters seven and eight. In these two chapters Susan emphasizes the need to watch growth over time. Again, Glazer examines some assessment tools and identifies for teachers, what each tool teaches students. She has included a developmental spelling table and many models of phonics lessons. Glazer also compares implicit and explicit phonics instruction.

The final chapter provides guidelines and instructions for getting parents on board with these alternative methods. Glazer provides a variety of lengthy progress reports that could be used to support her approach of student centered classrooms that focus on self-assessment.

Possible uses of the text:

       ~  Building a common literacy assessment language

        ~  Examination of specific tools, strategies, and assessments for each area of literacy

        ~  Resource of a variety of assessment tools

        ~  Discussion and collaboration among educators

        ~  An additional assessment resource


Cautions for using this text:

This text is very comprehensive in terms of definitions, strategies, and tools for teaching students to self-monitor and self-assess. Glazer has written this text for teachers with some background knowledge in how to use student assessments. For a new teacher, or one who is more traditional, this book would be very overwhelming. While Glazer says she will provide strategies for how best to manage this elaborate system of self-assessment, they were not always clear. This would not be an introductory test on literacy assessment, unless the focus was on one particular area.

Assessment: Continuous Learning


Written by: Lois Bridges

Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers (York, ME)

Copyright: 1995

ISBN: 1-57110-048-2

Synopsis of Content:

Lois Brides has written an easy-to-read text that helps elementary teachers to understand the value of continuous assessment within the context of the classroom setting. Assessment:  Continuous Learning advocates the use of authentic assessments for the purposes of understanding the developmental needs of students, as well as to better inform appropriate classroom instruction on a daily basis.

This book is divided into four chapters. The first chapter defines authentic assessment through six guiding principles. Each principle is explained and includes classroom examples to further assist the reader in their understanding. The second chapter introduces Different Ways of Knowing. This three-part cycle fully integrates learning, teaching, and evaluation into the classroom. The chapter also provides five perspectives of “kidwatching.”

Chapter three is filled with various assessment tools that could be used to document students’ learning through the five perspectives of kidwatching previously introduced. In addition to useable forms and adaptable contracts, this chapter also provides ideas to make kidwatching practical within the reality of an elementary classroom setting. The final chapter is devoted to the topic of helping students further develop their self-evaluation skills through the use of portfolios.

There are three special features included throughout the book: Dialogues provide opportunities for personal reflection by the reader, Shoptalks are mini-reviews of other related professional books, and Teacher-To-Teacher Field Notes are personal notes from classroom teachers about the topics discussed.

Possible Uses of the Text:

This could be used for a variety of purposes:

  • To provide an overview of authentic assessment
  • To provide specific criteria for use in designing your own developmentally appropriate assessments
  • To utilize a variety of developmental checklists, rubrics, observational recording sheets, and other teacher and student assessment forms
  • To offer opportunities for professional reflection on a variety of topics related to student assessment
  • To provide additional professional resources on assessment
  • To understand the benefits of student self-evaluation and the implementation of a portfolio system
  • To invite dialogues with colleagues on current practices in assessment

Cautions for Using the Text: 

This text is written for the educator who understands that active, engaged learners need developmentally appropriate instruction, couples with on-going authentic assessments. More traditional educators who have had little experience in observing both the processes and products of learning by their students may have difficulty using this book as an introductory text.

Reading Assessment

Principles and Practices for Elementary Teachers

Text Review by Gayla LaBreck


A collection of Articles from The Reading Teacher

Shelby J. Barrentine, Editor

Publisher: International Reading Association, Inc.

ISBN #: 0-87207-250-9

Copyright: 1999


Synopsis of Content:

Reading Assessment: Principles an Practices for Elementary Teachers is a compilation of articles from The Reading Teacher journal. Shelby J. Barrentine put examples of alternative assessment methods in one book in order to provide educators with practical means to overcome the boundaries and labels that standardized tests place on students, as well as on teachers and schools. The aim of the book is to give teachers foundation information on which to build solid explanations about why particular assessment practices make a difference in teaching children. 

The articles in the book are divided into five sections, each centered around an assessment-related theme. The sections are Principles and Possibilities for Assessment, Integrating Assessment and Instruction, Performance and Portfolio Assessment, Miscue Analysis and Formal Assessment Instruments. Before each section the editor has enriched the collection by providing a list of relevant additional readings after a brief introduction. In addition, each article is followed by a comprehensive bibliography.

The introduction sets the stage for this resource to be used as a tool by educators. Shelby Barrentine describes some of the difficulties educators have in seeking to know and understand readers in their classrooms. However, she states that the “difficulties can be alleviated by teachers’ willingness to try alternative assessments, to implement compatible instruction and assessment methods, and to view assessment as a long-term process that reveals patterns in a reader’s development.”

Reading Assessment: Principals and Practices for Elementary Teachers is a fine companion to Know Literacy – Constructive Literacy Assessment by Peter H. Johnston and Bonnie Hill’s Classroom Based Assessment. Each section is comprised of several articles that can be used individually or as a whole for professional development or discussion groups. Also each article could be used to substantiate almost any recent research on literacy assessment. The book is organized to “lay the foundation for developing assessment plans that are compatible with child-centered, developmentally appropriate, language-based literacy programs…and to shed light on what assessment information is useful to various constituents, how to use the information to inform instruction, and methods to communicate assessment information in meaningful ways to parents, students, and other stakeholders.” (pg. 9)

Many of the articles include actual samples of student work, realistic and usable charts and tables and suggested figures an activities that can be used in professional development settings or in the classroom. Each and every article in each session has been especially chosen to compliment the others, so when you are reading the test it acts as a whole rather than individual writings.

Possible Uses of Text:

Ways in which this text could be used by practitioners include:

                 √  Awareness of alternative assessment tools for literacy

                 √  Building a common language of assessment tools in literacy

                 √  Discussion and collaboration among educators

                 √  Resource and guide to creating meaningful assessment tools

                 √  Documentation of meaningful research in literacy assessment

Cautions for Using the Text:

Shelby J. Barrentine did a wonderful job compiling pertinent and meaningful information from a variety of practitioners to inform educators how to use alternative assessment tools for their classrooms. It is difficult to consider any cautions, because Barrentine sets the stage carefully by introducing each section of the text. She also makes it very clear what the challenges are today in assessing literacy in the classroom. Included also in this text is a subject index in the back to facilitate the use of this as a research tool.

Consequently, the caution I would personally prevail upon you is that no one tool gives any educator all the answers for the challenges she faces every day in the classroom. This particular book I found friendly and easy to use. It includes the basics, the foundation, as well as real life experiences and samples of student work. Barrentine gathered information from the nation’s foremost literacy experts and put their work in one place making it easy for us to use.

Portfolio Assessment: Getting Started

Text Review by Colleen Matoian

Written by: Allen A. De Fina

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Copyright: 1992

ISBN #: 0-590-49183-0


Synopsis of Content:

Alan De Fina has written an easy-to-read text that helps K-12 teachers understand portfolios and portfolio assessment. De Fina expands on this by speaking to the many ways teachers can include parents, students, and administrators in this process as well. Portfolio Assessment: Getting Started is a great hands-on resource that advocates for portfolios to be an ongoing, meaningful, child-centered approach to document the day-to-day learning activities of the student. De Fina advocates that, “Students of any age or grade level can learn to select pieces for their portfolio as well as establish criteria for their selections.” (p. 14)  De Fina hopes that portfolio become a natural part of your classroom and will benefit the classroom community as a whole. He is an advocate of including the parents as much as possible in the use of portfolios as well as portfolio assessment.

Chapter two is entitled, “Getting Started” and it is a short, but helpful chapter on numerous suggestions for the novice to get started. The chapter speaks to how the teacher can take the first steps toward implementing portfolios in the classroom as well as what might actually go inside the portfolio in regards to student work. He lists many items and he advises to start small and don’t try to do everything at once. He also stresses that including your students in this process is key. If teachers want students to be excited about and invested in their portfolios, they need to be consulted and involved in the process from the start.

Chapter three speaks to actually assessing the portfolio. De Fina states that, “Setting the overall purpose or purposes of portfolio assessment in your classroom should be one of the first major decisions you make because do much of what else you will do depends on what you decide.” He then goes on to list some purposes for portfolio assessment for teachers to consider. De Fina ends the chapter with a section on “Assessing and Grading” in which he gives the reader questions to ponder and explore in how to bridge the gap between formal and informal assessments and grades. He also gives suggestions on how to determine a “grade” based on information from the portfolio by using things such as holistic scoring guides, criteria for specific grade ranges, redesigning current report cards, and parent-teacher-student portfolio conferences.

Chapter four speaks to the day to day management of portfolios within the classroom. Once again De Fina strongly urges teachers to involve the students as much as possible and give them the major responsibility of compiling and evaluating their work. He states that the, “Portfolio classroom is a child-centered one.” He goes on to talk about managing reviewing, conferencing, parent involvement, and the accessing of portfolios. 

Chapter five speaks to the multiple benefits of portfolios. De Fina talks about some of the positive outcomes which are: Integrated reading and writing across the curriculum, incorporated the Writing Process into the portfolio to document growth, as well as developing metacognitive thinking skills in children, which enables children to be reflective about their thinking process.

Finally, Chapter six deals with possible problems with portfolios. He lists potential issues like: Validity of portfolio assessment, criteria selection, teacher assessment, assessment objectivity, student self-assessment, parental assessment, portfolio mandates, and portfolio ownership.


The first part of the Appendix lists four places to contact for help and support which include addresses and phone numbers for newsletters and a handbook that support portfolio use.

The appendices in this book is filled with many samples of forms that will be helpful to the classroom teacher in getting started with portfolios. These forms include attitude surveys, book review sheets, reading records, self-reflection sheets, conferencing checklists, metacognitive strategies checklist, parent information letter, and many more. These samples can be used “as is” or altered to fit the teachers needs.

Possible Uses of the Text:

  • To provide an overview of portfolios and portfolio assessment
  • To provide a starting point for teachers using portfolios in the classroom
  • To provide a hands on resource and quick reference
  • To have access to reproducible record keeping forms relating to portfolios
  • To use for professional development/inservice opportunities
  • To elicit dialogue with colleagues on the benefits/drawbacks of portfolios

Cautions for Using the Text:

This book is a great “first read” for someone interested in implementing portfolios in their classroom. However, the book is a quick read and does not go into a great amount of detail. I would recommend using this book as a starting point, but expand my knowledge by reading other books on the same subject, perhaps the ones listed in the Appendix and Bibliography.

The other caution I have is that this book promotes a true “child-centered” philosophy in regards to classroom practices. A teacher who may come from a more “traditional” approach and regularly uses standardized testing may not find this book useful or agreeable.

Changing the View

Student-Led Parent Conferences


Written By: Terri Austin

Publisher: Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH)

Copyright: 1994

ISBN: 0-435-08818-1  

Synopsis of Content:

In Changing the View, Terri Austin provides a framework for using student led conferences in place of parent-teacher conferences. Austin struggled with the issues of students viewing grades as something that the teacher gave them, not something they earned. She puts the process of grading and conferencing in the hands of her students. As a starting point, Austin states that in order to be successful in suing her method, the teacher needs to include three concepts: a classroom community needs to be developed, communication must be established, and relationships have to be built (p.8).

The six chapters in this book outline how Austin handed the responsibility of assessment over to her sixth graders. Students gained knowledge about themselves as learners through reflection as well as preparation and presentation of their portfolios. Austin believes that her students are experts when it comes to their own learning, therefore they should be the one to share the information included in portfolios with the parents.

The students in Austin’s classroom hold conferences with their parents at the end of each quarter. This end of quarter review provides the parents, student and teacher a time to celebrate the success of each student. This is a time which focuses on the positive aspects of the child’s learning rather than the negative. Together, parents and students reflect on the portfolio and set goals for the coming weeks.

Austin gives the reader all of the “how-to” information needed to integrate this form of assessment into their middle school classroom. This book comes with complete instructions of how to start, what to include in time this system takes and gives examples o things she has tried in the past that have failed.

Possible Uses of Text

  • Provide an overview of Student-Led Patent Conferences
  • Provide specific criteria to be included in portfolios
  • To utilize the role of the student in his/her own learning
  • To offer opportunities for reflection
  • To take the emphasis off the teacher as the primary role in learning
  • To understand the benefits of self evaluation
  • To understand the importance of portfolios to document growth
  • To build a common language between student, teacher and parent
  • Provide discussion for staff members
  • Encourage examination of current assessment tools and grading systems

Cautions for using this text

This text was written for the teachers of independent students. I found it very interesting and would love to use some of the ideas included in this text. However the system as described in this book is not practical in the Kindergarten and first grade level. Austin briefly mentions a second grade classroom in the final chapter, but dos not go into any details as to how the system is modified to work with more dependent students.

Implementation of Austin’s system requires a huge commitment on the part of the teacher. Although the end result takes the teacher role and puts it secondary, getting there is difficult. It is very time counseling and preparation for the conferences takes a big chunk of prime teaching time.

Classroom Based Assessment

Bonnie Campbell Hill, Cynthis Ruyptic, & Lisa Norwick

Publisher: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.

Copyright: 1998

ISBN: 0-926842-84-6

Text Review by Tammy Nason Tierney


Synopsis of Content

Amazed at how the book, Practical Aspects of Authentic Assessment: Putting the Pieces Together (Hill & Ruptic 1994), was received by teachers around the world, its authors were encouraged to write more. Classroom Based Assessment is the first of a four part series of books centered around assessment.

This book is practical, easy to follow, and logically written. It is accompanied by a CD-ROM which allow the reader to personalize any form found in the book. Structurally, this book has three clusters of information. The first cluster (Chapter 1-3) helps teachers look at the big picture of assessment, and gives its reader organizational tips. The second chunk (Chapter 4-10) gives useful suggestions of how to keep anecdotal records, as well as a spectrum of assessment tools. The third part of this book discusses continuums and the issues associated with them. Along with theoretical information the authors give advice of how to use, interpret, support, and explain continuums. Finally, each chapter includes suggestion for professional growth and recommended readings. Classroom Based Assessment is chock full of tips that have been field tested by its authors. It could very well be the “owners manual” for classroom assessment. 


Classroom Based Assessment has a myriad of possible applications. Some possible uses of the text might include, but are not limited to:

  1. An overview of classroom based assessment.
  2. Professional development and inservice opportunities.
  3. Forms could be used to provide consistency across grade levels, schools, etc.
  4. A starting point from which administrators and teachers can begin a dialogue about assessment.
  5. A resource for teachers to use as they “trouble shoot” the techniques and organization of classroom assessment.


  • Take it slow. Don’t try to implement every suggestion or assessment at once.
  • Be careful not to drown in the forms. A little goes a long way. Be selective.
  • Each book and CD-ROM costs about $50.
  • CD-ROM requires basic computer knowledge to use.