Saturday, May 21, 2016

mCLASS---Helping or Holding Back my Language-Impaired Students

In North Carolina, our kindergarten through third-grade teachers will administer reading assessments, one-on-one, using the state mandated system known as mCLASS Reading 3D.  Children have also been given this assessment in the beginning of the year and middle of the year.  The publisher, Amplify, has created this video which would make us all want to go purchase this assessment immediately! It makes this sound like assessment utopia!

In my opinion, there's good and bad with everything especially when mixing business with education-- Amplify does sell a lot of products to assess and enhance reading and math skills (as do many other companies). I have nothing against progress monitoring, and one-on-one assessment time with kids, and think it's good when assessment causes adults to reflect on the effectiveness of ongoing instruction.

That being said, I do have a couple of thoughts about our EC population and mClass.

  • I have children who can read a simple book, but the digital mClass assessment won't actually measure the book-reading skills because the same child can't fully answer the 'concepts about print' portion of the test.  Once the child can't answer those questions, he is essentially prevented from moving forward in the test.  There needs to be greater flexibility as to when to stop the assessment.  
  • I have children who can read higher level text decoding, but written language is very difficult.  mCLASS requires the child to pass a 'writing about reading' component before advancing in text levels.  As a result, some of my students have essentially plateaued for the whole of the school year.  For my language impaired students, reading and writing are two separate tasks--writing abilities should not hold back instructional reading levels.  By depriving these students of higher level text, the school (or mCLASS) is limiting these students from learning the language concepts presented in reading text at their age level. I groan with frustration when my language impaired students in 3rd grade bring first grade level books to me from their independent book box ALL YEAR.  They don't seem too excited about reading them, and neither am I.  I have hated to see the 'writing about reading' part of the assessment preventing the students from moving up.  We work on it during our speech/language sessions, but it's very frustrating.  
 A couple of esteemed colleagues, who are not in special education, have also expressed their thoughts about mCLASS in EdNC. They are much more knowledgeable about this than I am (since one is a teacher and one is a literacy coach) and have presented well-balanced opinions on this topic. 

If any of you have thoughts about literacy instruction, assessment, and inclusion, speak up here!
My students struggle with this.


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