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ASSESSMENT - Informal Prose Inventories to Assess Students Needs

Click to enlarge sample
 a successful reading programme
If our reading programmes are going to make a difference we must have a clear picture of what our students can do and what are the next learning steps.

Our Informal Prose Inventory procedure not only provides a comprehensive check on the all important decoding strategies that our readers are using, but MOST IMPORTANTLY exposes those readers who are reading fluently but not actively processing the text and who need to be taught comprehension strategies. 

Click on the sample recording sheets (left) for further explanation.

These IPIs have been used extensively in New Zealand and Australia for the last 15 years.
"I heard about your IPIs from a research team at a literacy conference in Perth. They said they had 'scoured the globe' looking for a resource such as this and claimed yours was the best around."  Sharon O'Brien, Western Australia

Available as three stand alone resources. Each collection covers all the 9 levels of difficulty with 2 tests at each level.
IPI 1 and 2 are fiction text, IPI 3 is non fiction. Click on IPI 1 to download a sample.


Key features of the Informal Prose Inventory
Running record component - allows you to do an all important check on decoding fluency. Sometimes there are gaps in our more able readers word attack strategy that could use a bit of polishing.
Comprehension - a measure of the reader's ability to construct the literal meaning of text.
Sometimes we rush into critical thinking about text too quickly and leave out this important foundational skill. Part 2 of the IPI test looks at the students ability to accurately process the information they are reading and hold onto it. This only occurs when the student has habitualised active reading strategies. 
​​​​​​​Comprehension - measuring critical thinking?
Well to be perfectly honest, we don't think the 'formal' testing scenario is the place to try an analyse students critical thinking ability. In other tests that I have worked with which try to measure this, it is actually possible to answer many of the questions without reading the text which seems to be a disconnect as far as I am concerned.
We think that our SharpReading guided reading sessions provide a much more authentic opportunity to measure critical thinking. 
Guidelines for Interpreting Informal Prose Inventory Data
Here are some guidelines for next steps for your readers.
IPI Testing criteria (pass marks): Accuracy 97%, Retell 50%, Answering Questions 75%
If the student fails to meet one (or more) of these criteria then this level becomes their Instructional Reading Age.
For example a student tested on Level 5:  Reading age 10-11 years.
Accuracy 99%  Retell 80%  Comp 95% - Passed all 3 criteria well.
Instructional Level is at least Level 6. Test on Level 6 (RA 11-12yrs).

Accuracy 98%  Retell 55%  Comp  80% - Passed all 3 criteria.
Instructional Level is Level 6. Probably no need to retest at Level 6. 
Accuracy 98%  Retell 47%  Comp  75% - Failed the retell. Instructional Level is Level 5.
Accuracy 98%  Retell 55%  Comp  68% - Failed the comp. Instructional level is Level 5.

Accuracy 98%  Retell 40%  Comp  68% - Failed the retell and comp (but not badly). Instructional level is Level 5.

Accuracy 98%  Retell 18%  Comp  68% - Failed the retell (below 20%) and comp. Instructional level is Level 5.

Accuracy 98%  Retell 45%  Comp  25% - Failed the retell and comp (below 30%). Instructional level is Level 5. No need to retest. Just need to strengthen comprehension at level 5.
Accuracy 98%  Retell 18%  Comp 29% - Where both the Retell is below 20% and the Comp below 30% Instructional level should drop down to Level 4. No need to retest.
The decoding is strong enough. Slightly easier text (lesser concept loading) will take the pressure off while comprehension strategies are strengthened.

The weaker decoder
Accuracy 96%  Retell 75%  Comp  85% - Failed the decoding. Instructional Level is Level 5 with a focus on identified decoding issues. Where accuracy drops below 97% there usually is enough data to identify something to work on. 

Accuracy 93%  Retell 55%  Comp 75% - Instructional Level 4. As soon as the Accuracy drops below 94% regardless of the comprehension scores, the instructional level moves down and the decoding issues become the focus of instruction.

The value of the IPI testing procedure is that it clearly identifies the good decoders who are weak comprehenders. The issue for many of these students is that fluent decoding can become a very mechanical process with very little engagement of the brain. They therefore need to be taught and given the opportunity to habitualise mental strategies that force them to process text.
We have found that 6 months instruction in our SharpReading programme results in huge improvements in retelling scores as a result of students learning how to construct meaning and by so doing, make the text memorable.
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