Grades and Testing / Ages 5-18

What Are All These Tests, Anyway?

DIBELS, iReady, MAP—oh my! What’s with all the code words? Here’s what you need to know about the assessments your child might take in school (without the jargon).

By this point in the school year, your child’s teacher might send home information about the assessments they’re using in their classroom. Tests already?! Don’t panic.

As we’ve explained, there are a few different types of assessments your child will take in school. Most of them are intended to give their teachers valuable information about how to support their learning. (Some tests are used for other purposes, so it never hurts to ask your child’s teacher to clarify what assessments they’re using and what they do with the results.)

  • DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills): This is a frequently used K-8 literacy assessment that includes multiple very short components. Your child will complete a series of short tasks in a one-on-one setting with a teacher. They’ll be asked to do things like identify letters and sounds, break down words into sound groups, and read for comprehension.
  • ERDA (Early Reading Diagnostic Assessment): Like DIBELS, ERDA measures how students are progressing in various aspects of early literacy, like phonemic awareness (recognizing individual sounds within words), reading fluency, and reading comprehension.
  • iReady: This is a set of online learning assessments for reading and math that are “adaptive,” which means the tasks and questions change depending on your child’s prior responses. This gives teachers specific information about how your child is doing in different areas of their learning, and allows them to adjust their instruction to meet each child’s needs.
  • MAP (Measures of Academic Progress): This is a big group of assessment tools used in many schools across the country. If your school district uses MAP assessments, your child might take these tests all the way through 12th grade to measure their progress in reading, math, language use, and science.
  • DRA (Diagnostic Reading Assessment): This assessment will measure your child’s reading fluency and comprehension by having them read aloud to a teacher while the teacher tracks their progress. They’ll then be assigned a “reading level” using the DRA’s number system.
  • Fountas & Pinnell: Similar to the DRA, this is a leveled reading program, but Fountas & Pinnell uses letters rather than numbers for their levels.

You might be wondering what your child’s “reading level” means, and how worried you should be if it’s lower than you expect.

Here’s what you need to know: While reading levels can be useful for helping teachers choose appropriate books for your child to read independently, there are also limits to what they tell us. In fact, there’s evidence that a child’s reading level can go up or down depending on the type of text, or due to their familiarity with the topic. (For example, if your kid is a basketball fanatic, their reading level might be higher when they read about basketball compared to when they read about tennis!) So take your child’s reading level for what it is: it’s one data point—and it’s much lower than it should be for their grade level, it’s something to discuss with your child’s teacher—but it’s also no reason to panic.

Get the Guide by email

You’ll get early access to our newest resources, timely tips on how to support your child, and more!

Sign Up