Using Data to Assess Your Reading Program
Publication Type:Web Article
Year of Publication:2004
Juli Kendall, a literacy teacher in California, describes a chart in Kendall’s book called the “Action Research Matrix” entitled “What Do We Know? What do We Do?” It “helps investigate a schoolwide focus for reading,” and the book breaks down specifics, such as reading vocabulary, into questions to ask. There are sections on professional development.
Citation: Kendall, J. (2004). Using data to assess your reading program. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
By Emily Calhoun
2004 (240 pages/paperback – includes CD)
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
($27.95 for members)
Reviewed by Juli Kendall
Long Beach (CA) Unified School District
Last year, as a part of the Teacher Leaders Network, I participated
in an online group doing Action Research projects. Everyone
chose a question to research. I investigated how to improve
students' reading comprehension by helping them learn vocabulary.
I struggled to get organized, and then stumbled around trying
to analyze the data that I was able to gather. To help myself,
I searched for resources that focused on action research in
This book would have made my Action Research project more successful.
It shows how to "use action research to evaluate students'
progress in reading, analyze instruction, and make changes
that improve students' performance." As I read through the
text, I found many helpful tools and suggestions.
On page 7 there is an Action Research Matrix titled, "What Do
We Know? What Do We Do?" which helps investigate a schoolwide
focus for reading. This form approaches new ways to think
about a question for research. It organizes group on-site
information and external information for the learner and the
learning environment. There are six cells to fill in, including:
— Current students' information
— External information about learners/students
— Student performance and responses we would like
— Information about the current learning environment
in our school
— External information about the learning environment
— Learning environment we would like to see.
Because of my particular interest in reading vocabulary, I took a
close look at Chapter 11, "Reading Vocabulary and Word Analysis
Skills." It begins by asking a series of questions to get
the reader thinking.
When you think about how people build large reading vocabularies,
beginning in early childhood and continuing as adults,
what do you think of? Which aspects of your curriculum
address the development of reading vocabulary? What assessment
techniques are used to inform teachers, students, and
the school community about student progress?
The first section of the chapter reviews the components for building
reading vocabulary: sight words, phonics and decoding skills,
morphological analysis, and using context. There is a careful
examination of assessment considerations for each of these
Next, the author examines assessing student progress.
When we study students' progress in building reading vocabulary,
we look at the progress they are making in expanding the
size of their sight vocabulary and the progress they are
making in using vocabulary building strategies —
phonics and decoding skills, structural analysis, and
contextual analysis. We want to see growth in the number
or words students read with automaticity and growth in
students' knowledge of word meanings. We also want to
see improvements in decoding skills and increases in the
number of strategies students use to decode and understand
unfamiliar words. Fluent reading depends on having a large
sight vocabulary; skilled reading depends on being able
to deal effectively with new words.
The chapter also discusses up-close measures for assessing students'
progress in building reading vocabulary, such as the Gray
Oral Reading Tests (GORT-4), Clay's Observation Survey of
Reading Achievement, as well as, the use of reading passages
and of word lists.
Atthe end of Chapter 11 is an extensive list of questions to
explore for building reading vocabulary. Reading these questions
gives an overview of the broad possibilities for investigating
reading vocabulary. The questions are structured around curriculum
materials, instruction, assessment, and organizing for learning
— grouping and scheduling.
The last part of the book is devoted to the link between schoolwide
action research and professional development. Chapter 14,
"Organizing Schoolwide Action Research and Professional Development"
leads the reader through selecting a focus for study, using
the Action Research Matrix, and gathering information. Designing
school action plans is discussed in the context of supporting
and studying the implementation of desirable changes. All
of this is based on the data that is gathered and the considerations
As schools look closely at using data to drive instruction,
Using Data to Assess Your Reading Program provides
a user friendly guide to careful use of data from a variety
of close up assessments. This book is a much needed resource
for helping schools use data for action research as a way
to focus professional development on the needs of their