Reading Assessment to Inform Learning

Corrie Rhyasen Erdman, Community Learning Network

1 4 10 February 2016

Looking for a reading assessment that tells you what reading skills to teach to each learner?

Read Forward is an informal reading assessment designed with learners in mind. It is low-stakes and uses reading tasks learners encounter in their daily lives. By working through the reading tasks in the tests, learners demonstrate what they know about reading…and what they don’t. The tasks they perform successfully reveal what the learner knows and can do with their reading skills. The tasks that they cannot complete give us a glimpse at the gaps in the learner’s reading knowledge.

Included with the Read Forward materials is an answer key that not only provides the test answers but also includes the reading skill being tested in each question. Knowing the reading skills for each question means that the test results identify the specific skills the learner needs to work on. This information supports learning and instruction by:

Providing a baseline. The test results mark the starting point to compare and measure learning progress.

Informing the learning plan. The skills identified by the assessment articulate what specific skills to teach. These can be used as part of the learning plan.

Monitoring learning progress. Having a baseline and knowing the skills to teach enables practitioners and learners to keep track of the development of reading skills.

When to use Read Forward

Before using Read Forward it is important to clarify if this assessment is the right assessment for the learner and the purpose. Read Forward is designed for learners who

  • Are fluent in English
  • Struggle with reading tasks in their work, home or community
  • Want to improve their reading skills
  • Note: This assessment is not designed for learners with learning disabilities and will not provide accurate assessment results. However, the test materials can also be used as learning activities and are useful for developing reading skills for all learners.

Be clear about your intent and purpose for using the Read Forward assessment. If you are using the assessment to

  • Identify skill gaps so you know where to focus the learning, then it is best to administer the test early on in the learning process, i.e. once the learner has indicated reading as a learning goal
  • Check learning progress, then you can re-administer the test at a midway point in the learning process (there are 5 tests for each level so no need to reuse a test!).
  • Confirm that the learner has completed their goal or mastered the skills in a Read Forward level, then a final test will allow you to compare the learner’s current reading skills to the initial and/or midpoint assessments. The results will also inform the next stage of learning should the learner choose to continue.
  • Note: Read Forward is intended to be used to inform the learner as well as the practitioner. Regardless of the purpose of the assessment, take the time to share the results with the learner in such a way that it affirms their existing skills and strengths and gives clear direction for further learning

Read Forward is available as a free download from Take the time to review the guide before using the materials. And once you have used Read Forward check out the companion resources (leveled reading materials, teaching strategies, tips for assessment and planning for learning) on the Alberta Reading Benchmarks website.

Corrie Rhyasen Erdman
CLN Regional Support Staff
West-Central Alberta


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