New ebook explores a vital tool to assess early reading skills  

With the Sustainable Development Goals, the international community has pledged to ensure that every child is in school and learning by 2030. Reading is a gateway skill to all other learning, which explains the growing use of oral reading assessments to evaluate and improve the skills of young children. By detecting reading weaknesses early in a child’s educational experience, the resulting data can be used to better direct policies and interventions before it is too late.

With the support of the Global Partnership for Education and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the UIS has brought together a wide range of organizations that are leading the development, implementation and financing of oral reading assessments conducted in schools and households. Through a collaborative but technically-rigorous process, they have identified common practices and effective strategies to design, implement and use these tools for effective policymaking based on experience in more than 60 developing countries.  

The results are presented in the ebook, Understanding What Works in Oral Reading Assessments. With contributions from more than 50 experts in 30 organizations, the ebook encourages stakeholders to learn from each other in ways that enhance capacity, ownership and cultural sensitivity while fostering innovative forms of international collaboration.

The ebook outlines six recommendations to make the best use of oral assessments to improve learning:

1. Develop an assessment plan for comprehensive reform: Data from oral reading assessments should guide system-level reforms to improve learning. So right from the start, policymakers must clearly identify who will be tested, as well as the relevant knowledge, skills language level and perceptions or attitudes to be assessed.

2. Collect additional information: Sound interventions need information on the context of each child, as well as data on reading skills.

3. Emphasise relevant skills and be conscious of culture and language: Consider the foundations for pre-reading skills and recognize the specifics of culture and language.

4. Ensure good organization:  Teams need clear protocols that reflect best practice on logistics, monitoring throughout the process and follow up.

5. Share the results in the right way with the right audiences:  Results must be understandable to key audiences, so that everyone has a stake in efforts to improve learning.

6. Use the data to raise awareness and design interventions to improve teaching and learning: Assessment results must lead to action, so support local ownership of results and follow up.