RTI and Early Reading Assessment

Chapter 6

EDU 741 Laura Meegan

RTI and Assessment: You Can't Have One without the Other

Response to Intervention was created with the goal of identifying students who may be at risk for failure in learning to read. RTI is comprised of three tiers or levels of instruction that begin with a student receiving general instruction within the regular classroom. Students who struggle are moved to Tier 2. Tier 2 gives the student targeted instruction in areas of weakness as identified through some form of assessment. This level of instruction is provided by either a trained paraprofessional or a reading specialist. If the student fails to respond to Tier 2 interventions, he or she may be considered for Tier 3, which can sometimes be a special education setting. Important to note is that, "RTI is effective when instruction and assessment are well aligned and operating as partners in efforts to help students develop as accomplished readers" (Afflerbach, 2012, p. 118).

Afflerbach states, "A well-functioning RTI program is informed by effective assessment."

It's important to keep the "big picture" of assessment in mind, according to Peter Afflerbach. When considering assessments that may identify struggling readers, Afflerbach reminds us, "We do not read to be accomplished in phonics or demonstrate phonemic awareness, and we do not read to display fluency as a particular combination

of rate and accuracy. These are all important aspects of reading, yet they do not

get us to the point of reading: to construct meaning" (2012, p. 126). We cannot assess simply for the sake of assessment, or simply to assess isolated skills in reading and place instructional emphasis on only those skills. "In best practice, assessment continually informs instruction" (2012, p. 143). DIBELS and OSELA are two assessments that provide different types of information about early readers. However, we must look at reading through a wide lens that includes both skills and a student's view of himself or herself as a reader. Further, Afflerbach believes we should consider all reading assessments "high stakes" (p. 126). The data they provide must be applicable. Otherwise, we must re-evaluate why we give these assessments in the first place.

Teacher Questioning as Assessment (Chapter 3)

Asking and answering questions is as much a part of the classroom routine as taking attendance and going to recess. We must be mindful, however, of the types of questions we ask our students and the underlying purpose for asking them. "How we think about reading, the purposes for reading instruction, and the development of the students we teach should influence the nature of the questions we ask" (Afflerbach, 2012, p. 52).

The questions teachers ask must go beyond the literal and offer students an opportunity for higher-level, more complex thinking. Unfortunately, the cost of scoring high-stakes test questions can directly influence the types of questions that are asked. Machine-scored tests are easier and more affordable to score than constructed-response (or open response) questions that must be read and evaluated by human beings. "A result is that to the degree that there is teaching to the test, there is also teaching to low-level questions" (Afflerbach, 2012, p. 55). This limits the types of questions we might ask and thus may not reflect what our students have actually learned and understood.

It Is Not the Answer that Enlightens, but the Question

Afflerbach tells us there are many types of questions and questioning techniques. In the fourth century BC, Socrates developed a dual-purpose method of questioning. One method of questioning served as a guide to inquiry and thinking while the second method was designed to determine what the person answering the question actually knew (2012, p. 52). IRE (initiate-respond-evaluate) has now become a popular and common form of questioning, with K-W-L, (what do I know, what do I want to know, what did I learn) QAR (question-answer relationships), and Questioning the Author also increasingly utilized in classrooms.

Afflerbach cautions about the level of teacher control involved in some questioning techniques. With IRE the teacher is the sole authority with regard to the correctness of a student's answer in response to a question the teacher chose to ask. If our goal is to encourage higher-level thinking, we may want to consider opportunities for discussion among our students that arise as a result of the types of questions we present to them. Afflerbach talks about planned and spontaneous questions in the classroom, as well as the importance of wait time and ensuring a student is able to comprehend the question that was asked. All of these must be given consideration when we question our students with the ultimate goal of assessing their learning. Afflerbach is clear, "We cannot be content with determining if a student's response to a question is correct or incorrect. We must uncover the student thinking that led to the response to the question" (p. 64).


Afflerbach, P. (2012). Understanding and using reading assessment k-12. (2nd ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.