DARTTS Discussion

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The following discussion took place on the NIFL-Assessment Listserv during July 2004. It focuses on:

  • pracitioners' experiences using the DAR
  • questions about standardization and scoring of DAR
  • connections to the ARCS reading profiles developed by NCSALL at Harvard

Also see ARCS Reading Diagnostic

Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2004
From: "George E. Demetrion" <socrates555@juno.com>
Subject: DAR

We use the DAR (Diagnostic Assessment of Reading, I think). It tests for Word recognition, Oral Reading,, Spelling, Word Meaning, and Silent Reading for the more advanced students. There are also pre-reading and word analysis sections that we don't formally score in our data base, though the information is available by perusing the student test. It's a decent instrument for assessing reading skills, though the 12th grade scale is well beyond even our most advanced students. It's helpful also because we are state-mandated to use CASAS and this provides another (time consuming instrument) by which to get a handle on student learning and in providing an additional instrument of accountability.

One caveat and it's an important one. Like all standardized tests, the instrument assesses independent reading skills, yet so much of our work is done through collaborative small groups in which the bridging support of the tutor or the other students plays a critical role that does not show up on such instruments.

Here's a frustration I experienced this week. I had been working with a group of beginning level readers who through an assisted reading approach and a little bit of encouragement can make progress. As I walked into class the other day the students were working on their own, helping each other in the review of 100 basic words that we use, and they were fairly accurate in identifying the first 50 words. They also did decently with the short reading passages that we have been working on in our group, but the process requires a lot of creative reinforcement.

Then I post-tested a student on the DAR who had over 75 hours of instruction on the DAR. She made no progress on any of the indicators and even went down in one of the categories. Yet, in working with her, I know she can learn as she has demonstrated in class even as independent reading skills remain quite low.

Now I know in the final analysis that what students can do purely on their own is critical. Yet, unless we can also indicate the subtle learning that takes place in the instructional process and the slow growth that takes place over time, however good they may be, these standardized tests remain limited in what they indicate about student learning. In itself, there's nothing wrong with that. Where it becomes a problem is when such indicators serve as the prime benchmarks for demonstrating progress and when assessment/accountability measurements are viewed as high staked.

I was feeling a bit down this week; knowing this student was learning, yet not being able to demonstrate it in the way that counts at least from a certain outside the classroom vantage point. I also know that we need to be able to converse with those across the continuum of the field, but to do so, we need all the instrumentalities and resources we can draw on in making certain points and not being tied from the get go by legitimized instrumentalities which in their very design can only illuminate certain (far from unimportant) aspects of adult literacy learning.

There are some challenges ahead to say the least.

George Demetrion

Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2004
From: "George E. Demetrion" <socrates555@juno.com>
Subject: DAR

Our program utilizes the DAR as one of our assessments instruments.

The DAR assesses for Word Recognition (WR)
Oral Reading (OR)
Spelling (S)
Word Meaning (WM)
Silent Reading (SR)

Each of these categories are independently scores which we place in our LitPro data base.


1. Is there a composite or synthetic score or does the DAR only provide for these separate categories?

2. Would the DAR be viewed as a standardized assessment?

I didn't find the relevant information at the web site http://www.riverpub.com/products/group/dartts/home.html

Information will be gratefully appreciated.

George Demetrion

Date: Fri Aug 06 2004
From: Crawford, June (jcrawford@nifl.gov)
Subject: DAR

The reading profiles that John Strucker and Rosalind Davidson produced utilize the DAR. They are available - along with a discussion of the instruments - at http://www.nifl.gov/readingprofiles - and were recommended to us by John Kruidenier. Here at NIFL, we plan to maintain them and upgrade them over the next few months. If you have questions about them please feel free to contact me or Rosalind (rosalind_davidson@harvard.edu).

June Crawford
COR, Adult Reading Contracts
National Institute for Literacy

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