Off-level Think Abouts
▢ Rare; 2% or less
▢ Decided on an individual basis; not applied to whole groups (EL, IEP, etc)
▢ Used for students reading 10-15 wcpm or less
▢ Monitoring phonemic awareness or decoding should not replace goals to read connected text, usually at grade level
The FastBridge CBMR measures were intentionally designed to solve a common problem with most other CBM-like measures where the grade level passages were too difficult to be used to monitor growth for a large portion of children performing below grade level. The FastBridge CBMR measures were carefully engineered to minimize the need to measure off-level by using easier, more predictable and decodable text. FastBridge developed the progress monitoring passages to be a bit more “readable” in order to get a larger sample of reading out of lower-performing students. A larger sample of reading on easier passages means better sensitivity to growth. As long as the student can read 10 or more words correct per minute on the grade level passage, there should be limited need to use an off-level measure. According to FastBridge developers, about 98% of students should be able to have their reading growth monitored using grade level materials. This is a change for people used to reading fluency measures used in the past. Do not apply old practices to these new measures.
Closely related to the general issue of off-grade level monitoring, the difficulty of the reading passages in FastBridge CBMR materials is the same for more than one grade level. In FastBridge, the passages are developed in bands with the same level of passages used at more than one grade level. Monitoring on two "grades" within the same reading level is meaningless, and a waste of time.
If you aren't careful, the goals for grade level passages are set for that specific grade level, and not the grade level of the student. Using 2nd grade passages to monitor a 3rd grade student will produce a false sense that the student is making good progress towards an end of year benchmark that was intended for second grade, while not actually even using easier text!
Even more striking are examples where a middle grade student is monitored on earlyReading measures. The goals for those measures are end of year benchmarks for Kindergarten or First grade students and are not suitable as end of year goals for older children. Progress towards these goals would not be gap-closing progress for older children. Of course, there are times when it is reasonable and appropriate to monitor a small number of older children with severe reading deficits on lower measures from earlyReading. Make sure that using these measures does not unintentionally cause lowered expectations. Unless it is impossible, try and continue to use frequent on-grade level monitoring as well.
Let’s take a look at what this looks like in real life. In this example, a 3rd grade child is being monitored every week with 2nd grade probes and once a month with 3rd grade probes. In the graph, the 2nd grade results and goal are indicated in red, while the 3rd grade results are indicated in blue. Since the 2nd and 3rd grade passages are the same difficulty it is no surprise that they are all clustered together. The weekly vs monthly PM trend is interesting, too. The trends contradict each other. It shows how much less reliable infrequent PM can be.
Another example, this time 3rd and 4th.
The point is, off level monitoring results in inadequate goals and is usually unnecessary. Monitor nearly all students on grade level to gain the best feedback about the student’s progress toward success. In both examples above, the student was reading well above the 10 words per minute needed to get valid growth data from the PM measure.
Why It Matters: Words for coaches
Progress monitoring on off-level measures is an old habit that is mostly inappropriate when using the FastBridge measures. This practice is left over from other assessments that were not very sensitive to growth for struggling students and has been common for kids with IEPs. Unfortunately, this practice results in dramatically lowered expectations for these children, just what they don’t need! An off-level goal means lower and slower expectations, rather than accelerated growth.
In the past, using other assessments, we might have selected a ‘grade level below’ so the student could see more success on what was still a challenging or “close to grade level” passage. As noted above, the passages in FastBridge are built to be more readable at grade level to begin with, making this unnecessary. FastBridge CBMR materials do not alternate narrative and informational text, nor pull a sample of a complex text structure. Instead, they are engineered specifically to accurately monitor general reading improvement on grade level for struggling readers. Even dropping just one grade level in FastBridge, results in monitoring the child’s progress toward an inappropriate, inadequate goal. Even though monitoring on grade level at a lower frequency can help keep an eye on the grade level target (as suggested in the past), fewer data points means a longer time before it is clear that the intervention is (or is not) working.
Old habits die hard. IEP teams may not be aware of the measurement characteristics of FastBridge CBMR. They may think off level PM is an IDEA requirement (it isn't). They may also labor under the misunderstanding that they cannot change an IEP goal until the annual review, and refuse to update the goals to something more meaningful and grade-appropriate. An IEP goal may be revised at any time through communication with the parent/family. A simple communication with the parent may suffice, with a corresponding amendment. Please be sure to check on the current, appropriate process for updating an IEP.
When to Consider Off-level Progress Monitoring
A very small number of students participating in intensive intervention and some students with disabilities might need to be monitored at a lower level. Even when opting to include off-level monitoring, the overall intent is still to improve reading at grade level, but it might be important to monitor intervention on specific skills needed to get there (such as phonemic awareness or decoding). For example, short-term use of an off level measure (in addition to the grade level measure monthly) may be meaningful for a student learning to speak English or a student that has not yet mastered the basic pre-reading skills. In cases like this, it might make sense to monitor these enabling skills for reading to ensure that they are mastered as quickly as possible. As noted above the goals generated automatically in the FastBridge system for any off level measure will be “too low” to close gaps because they are based on benchmarks for the grade level of the test and not for the student's actual grade level. Think carefully about the appropriate goals and timing for these measures to ensure accelerated progress toward grade level reading skill development. Decisions about using an off level measure should include the student support or problem-solving team, as well as the parent/family of the student. Please do not automatically apply an off level measure to whole groups of students- “English Learners” or “Students on IEPs.” Make individual decisions based on individual student needs and performance. There is some good information from FastBridge related to off-level monitoring in the article entitled: FastBridgefact: Survey Level Assessment of Oral Reading in the FastBridge knowledge base.
Still want to set up off-level monitoring? Here are the instructions: