Three years ago our district did a huge overhaul of our elementary English language arts assessment system. We wanted to align with the balanced assessment suggestions of the RtI model. We made sure we had a common screening and diagnostic assessment, as well as common formative assessment options documented for the entire district. The diagnostic assessment we chose was the DRA2. Every K-5 teacher was trained and then required to assess all of their students in the fall, winter, and spring. Although there was push back to begin with, the DRA came to be a “must have” to most teachers. Having the DRA2 data strengthened our collaboration and instruction tremendously.
Fast forward to the present. We now have PALS in grades K-2. This test is considered a screener; yet, is also diagnostic and provides great information and reports. With the gradual implementation of PALS to first kindergarten, then first grade, and now second grade, we have continued to keep the DRA2 as a requirement. I have been struggling with the idea of whether or not the DRA2 is still necessary for ALL students, especially in first and second grade where an oral reading passage is a required component of PALS. Do we need another one from the DRA2, too? I still believe the DRA2 is extremely valuable, but teachers just do not have the time to assess all students on PALS AND all students on the DRA2. Although the DRA2 gives us such great information, can we get most of that same information from PALS, our state required assessment?
I keep wondering if it will be more beneficial to take away the DRA2 or make it optional. If we required PALS in the winter (instead of DRA2), we would have three common data points with the same assessment - comparing apples to apples. Teachers would have more time for instruction because they aren’t spending so much time assessing. Teachers could use the DRA2 for those students that were ID’d on PALS for more information if needed; however, I do feel that PALS offers enough information for us to pinpoint student needs and tailor our instruction accordingly.
Although there are so many great resources and assessments on the market, we can’t do or use them all. It all comes back to quality and not quantity.