IDENTIFYING AT-RISK KIDS EARLY
AND INTERVENING EFFECTIVELY
Written by THRIVE Program Teacher, Tyson Schoeber • Last Updated: 11-28-2015
While it may seem too good to be true, there is a simple and inexpensive way to accurately identify young children who are likely to develop into weak readers. This page introduces the Predictive Assessment of Reading Test, a tool that is quite literally capable of changing the lives of at-risk children.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
Way back in 2008, I had the privilege of spending an evening with Dr. Frank Wood, a retired neuropsychology professor from North Carolina's Wake Forest University School of Medicine. I learned that Dr. Wood had dedicated much of his career to the prevention of reading failure and I was introduced to a tool he'd created that could play a major role in that effort.
The PAR Test is an individually-administered screening tool that assesses children's skills and accurately predicts their long-term abilities in reading (if no additional interventions are given). It can be used as early as the Pre-Kindergarten year and all the way up to the end of 3rd Grade. It is easy to use and takes no more than 15 minutes per child.
Administration of the test gives six scores in four critical areas:
1. Letter-Word Calling (the ability to identify and pronounce words correctly)
2. Picture Naming Vocabulary (a measure of the knowledge of word meanings)
3. Phonemic Awareness (the ability to work with the sounds that make up words)
4. Rapid Naming Fluency (the ability to quickly name a series of numbers or letters)
Following administration of the test, the teacher enters those scores into the system's online database where the child's results are instantly compared to several decades worth of National Institute of Health literacy data. That comparison results in an accurate prediction of the child's end-of-3rd-Grade and end-of-8th-Grade reading abilities.
With a proven reliability of better than 0.9 (i.e. correct more than nine times out of ten), the PAR Test is able to accurately identify the kind of reader that any young child will ultimately turn out to be. Yet it does not stop at making a prediction! The PAR Test also identifies the specific kinds of instruction that each at-risk child needs as well as recommends the intensity of instruction they will require in order to prevent failure in the first place! Schools can use that information to plan instruction, develop groups and allocate resources — and even to advocate for additional support, when necessary.
SPECIAL DEAL FOR BC SCHOOLS
Dr. Wood created the PAR test because he wanted to change the world for kids — and for a long time it was managed directly by the publishing wing of his university. A couple of years ago, they passed that responsibility onto another company. Red-e Set Grow updated the testing materials (to make them look prettier) and developed a more user-friendly interface for the database. The old version was never hard to use but the new look is more modern.
Over the past few months, the people behind this new version of the test and I have spent a lot of time talking. In the process, I was able to work out a deal for my school that they are also willing to extend to any school in British Columbia — just $4 US per student in batches of 25 (i.e. roughly $100/year). To that end, my school recently purchased a three-year license for about $300. My hope is that many other BC schools will take advantage of this offer, too!
Most people recognize that the effects of reading failure are profound, tragic and lifelong. Children who do not learn to read well in their early years are often destined to do poorly in school and to struggle throughout their lives.
Using a tool like the PAR test, schools can now easily and accurately identify those of our kids who are likely to develop into poor readers — and, empowered with that knowledge, we can intervene early enough to prevent that failure from happening in the first place. In short, we can quite literally change the world for them.
1. BC has important Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy legislation. The Learning Services Team of the Vancouver School Board feels that use of the PAR Test falls under the domain of those laws because Red-e Set Grow's servers are located in the USA. Therefore, we have developed a notice that schools can use to inform parents or guardians of children they would like to screen with the PAR test. Other School Districts should feel free to adapt it for their own use.