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The Importance of Assessments in Education

It seems like it is always that time of year: assessment time! Assessments can be many things: stressful (for both the teacher and student), informative, uninformative, and time-consuming, to name a few. As educators, we know assessment is crucial to support informed instruction. What is not always clear is the what, when, and why of the assessments we administer.

The Purpose of Assessments: Monitoring Progress and Informing Instruction

Assessments should be designed and administered to monitor progress, inform instruction, and ensure students are working towards and/or meeting end-of-year benchmarks.  While many different types of assessments exist, one thing we do not want to do is over-assess our students.  Some assessments are mandatory, so when administering optional assessments, we want to be sure to choose ones that will inform our instruction to best meet the needs of our students. 

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Avoiding Over-Assessment: Choosing the Right Assessments for Your Students

At Heggerty, we do offer free phonological and phonemic awareness assessments.  These assessments are not required to implement the curriculum. When implementing the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness lessons in Tier 1, whole group instruction, you begin on Monday of Week 1. We do not need to assess to find a starting point, as all students will begin in the same place. However, we offer assessments as a resource if teachers want to measure the growth and impact of the curriculum or are planning small-group instruction or intervention.  Many benchmarking assessments used at a district or school level allow teachers to get a pulse on student achievement. However, universal screeners typically do not assess multiple phonemic awareness skills. Some students may require us to “drill down” to get more specific information. The Heggerty phonemic awareness assessments allow teachers to gain information about a student’s progress with phoneme isolation, blending, segmenting, and manipulating phonemes. 

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Heggerty’s Free Phonological and Phonemic Awareness Assessments

On our website, we offer three phonemic awareness assessments per grade level in PreK, Kindergarten, and 1st grades: Forms A, B, & C.  These assessments can be used to gather data at different points in the school year in order to monitor a student’s progress and growth with phonological and phonemic awareness.  Teachers may decide to use these assessments at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year or at the end of trimesters/quarters. The PreK assessments include phonological awareness skills, while Kindergarten and Primary assessments begin assessing at the phoneme level. The purpose of beginning at the phoneme level in kindergarten is to allow the same unit to be assessed throughout the year to measure growth. We realize some Kindergarten and even first-grade students may have trouble working at the phoneme level on assessment Form A. However, as you continue to assess throughout the year, you will be able to measure the growth in each skill.

This brief video clip features Lori Jurjovec, a Heggerty Literacy Specialist, assessing the first three skills of the Primary Assessment (Form B) with one of her students. Lori utilizes the precise teacher language found in the assessment directions to guide the student through each skill covered in the assessment.

Using Heggerty Assessments to Monitor Progress and Growth

In addition to assessment Forms A, B, & C, which are offered digitally on our myHeggerty platform and in print, we offer progress monitoring assessments to measure and track student growth as students receive targeted instruction in specific phonemic awareness skills. These assessments are in print form only, are organized by phonemic awareness skill, and can be downloaded here.  The printable assessments can be used by classroom teachers, interventionists, and any support staff who are providing targeted phonemic awareness instruction.  These assessments should be used to inform instruction and guide conversations about growth and progress at the MTSS table.

In this short clip, Lori focuses on one skill, substituting initial phonemes. Watch as she administers this section of the assessment to her student.

Note: If a student scores beginning or developing on a skill in Form A, B, or C of the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness assessments, teachers may choose to provide additional support or intervention. The progress monitoring assessments can be administered after instruction and intervention for this skill is provided, and teachers would allow for at least 10-12 days of instruction between each assessment. Teachers may not need to use all eleven assessments for every student. This is not a normed assessment, so teachers may use examples when introducing each skill. Options for correct and incorrect responses are provided for teacher administration. Each
assessment also includes specific weeks in the Heggerty Kindergarten and Primary curriculum that can
be used to plan for and provide instruction with the beginning or developing skill in mind.

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Making the Most of Your Assessment Time: Ensuring Assessments Inform Instruction

Collecting data to inform our instruction and monitor student progress is critical.  The Heggerty assessments for phonological and phonemic awareness skills can be extremely helpful, but remember that because these assessments are given to students one-on-one, they do take time.  Ensure that any assessment you give students is to further inform your instruction, target skills, and measure progress toward student goals.


Additional Resources:

  • Blog: 11 NEW Science of Reading Resources– ELEVEN resources that we have found helpful in our learning and growth around the Science of Reading!
  • Blog: Phonemic Awareness vs. Phonics– Phonemic awareness and phonics are two components that are absolutely essential for reading, but it is important to understand that they are not the same thing; click the link to read more about the differences!
  • Webinar: The #1 Reading Skill Your Students are Missing– In this webinar, you will learn all about the 3 Ps of reading-phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics-what they are, how they’re different, and why they’re a critical part of building children’s reading abilities. 
  • Free Sample: Kindergarten Phonemic Awareness Sample Lessons– This sample English Kindergarten phonemic awareness lesson plan provides a preview of a complete Heggerty weekly lesson plan. The full English Kindergarten curriculum manual includes 35 weeks of daily lessons, teaching 7-8 phonemic awareness skills and 2 early literacy skills. A lesson takes 10-12 minutes to complete, and the lessons are oral and auditory.

Comments

  1. ahenderson 1:09 pm on May 10, 2023

    Does Heggerty have any benchmark recommendations to help us know when classroom teachers should be concerned about a student in relation to their scores on the different screeners? Thanks!

    • Brittany Snyder 3:09 pm on October 27, 2023

      Benchmark recommendations for phonemic awareness skills can vary depending on the grade level and specific educational standards adopted by a school or district. The development of phonemic awareness skills is considered a critical component of early literacy instruction. We have aligned our curriculum to Common Core Standards. The following list offers some common benchmark recommendations for phonemic awareness skills in early education:

      Kindergarten:
      – Recognizing and producing rhyming words.
      – Recognizing and isolating individual phonemes (beginning and ending sounds).
      – Blending two or more phonemes into words.
      – Segmenting words into individual phonemes.

      Grade 1:
      – Recognizing and producing rhyming words.
      – Blending three or more phonemes into words.
      – Segmenting words into individual phonemes.
      – Manipulating phonemes within words (e.g., substituting one sound for another).

      Grade 2 and Beyond:
      – Continued development and application of phonemic awareness skills
      to more complex words and texts.
      – Extending phonemic awareness skills to multisyllabic words.
      – Developing more advanced phonemic awareness skills, such as phoneme addition, deletion, and substitution.

      It’s essential to note that these benchmarks serve as general guidelines and can vary by state, district, or educational program. I would recommend consulting your state’s Department of Education or the specific curriculum standards used in your area. Some states in the United States, for example, have adopted specific standards for phonemic awareness at different grade levels as part of their language arts and literacy curriculum.

  2. Rebecca L Bowser 1:29 pm on July 18, 2023

    I liked the progress monitoring assessments available. Often times a student needs a little more support in only a few areas and these help to pinpoint that. I have downloaded them and plan on using these next year after my initial assessment to further help target areas my students are struggling in.

  3. Taylor Yagow 10:49 am on October 23, 2023

    I am a teacher that uses Heggerty daily. This program is awesome and I am wanting to continue utilizing your programs tools for progress monitoring my bubble students.

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