A Comprehensive Review of the STAR Reading Program

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Overview

STAR Reading is an online assessment program developed by Renaissance Learning for students typically in grades K-12. The program uses a combination of the cloze method and traditional reading comprehension passages to assess forty-six reading skills across eleven domains. The program is used to determine a student’s overall reading level as well as identify a student's individual strengths and weaknesses.

The program is designed to provide teacher’s with individual student data quickly and accurately. It typically takes a student 10-15 minutes to complete an assessment and reports are available immediately upon completion.

The assessment consists of approximately thirty questions. Students are tested on foundational reading skills, literature components, reading informational text, and language. Students have one minute to answer each question before the program automatically moves them to the next question. The program is adaptive, so students difficulty will increase or decrease based on how a student performs.

Features

STAR Reading is easy to set up and use. STAR Reading is a Renaissance Learning program. This is important because if you have Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Math, or any of the other STAR assessments, you only have to do the set up one time. Adding students and building classes is quick and easy.

You can add a class of about twenty students and have them ready to be assessed in about 15 minutes.

STAR Reading correlates with Accelerated Reader. Many schools across the country use Accelerated Reader. To maximize the effect of Accelerated Reader students should be limited to books that correlate to their specific Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).

STAR Reading provides teachers with each student’s individual ZPD that can then be entered into the Accelerated Reader program to limit students to books that will not be too easy or too difficult for them to read.

STAR Reading is easy for students to use. The interface is plain and straightforward. This minimizes the chances for a student to be distracted. Students have two choices when answering the multiple choice style questions. They can use their mouse and click on the correct choice, or they can use the A, B, C, D keys that correlate to the correct answer. Students are not locked into their answer until they click next or push the enter key. Each question is on a one-minute timer. When a student has fifteen seconds remaining a small clock will begin to flash at the top of the screen letting them know that time is about to expire for that question.

STAR Reading provides teachers with a tool to easily screen and progress monitor students who need reading intervention. STAR Reading comes with a screening and progress monitor tool that allows teachers to set goals and monitor a student’s progress as they move throughout the year. This easy to use feature allows teachers to quickly and accurately decide whether they need to change their approach with a particular student or continue doing what they are doing.

STAR Reading has an adaptable assessment bank. STAR Reading has an extensive assessment bank that allows students to be assessed multiple times without seeing the same question. In addition, the program adapts to the student as they answer questions. If a student is performing well, then the questions will increasingly become more difficult. If they are struggling the questions will become easier. The program will eventually zero in on the student’s correct level.

Reports

STAR Reading is designed to provide teachers with useful information that will drive their instructional practices. STAR Reading provides teachers with several useful reports designed to assist in targeting which students need intervention and what areas they need assistance in.

Here are four key reports available through STAR Reading and a brief explanation of each:

Diagnostic: The diagnostic report provides the most information about an individual student. If offers information such as the student’s grade equivalent, percentile rank, estimated oral reading fluency, scaled score, instructional reading level, and zone of proximal development. It also provides tips to maximize that individual’s reading growth.

Growth: This report shows the growth of a group of students over a specific period of time. This period of time is customizable from a few weeks to months, to even growth over the course of several years.

Screening: This report provides teachers with a graph that details whether they are above or below their benchmark as they are assessed throughout the year. This report is useful because if students are falling below the mark, then the teacher needs to change their approach with that student.

Summary: This report provides teachers with whole group test results for a specific test date or range. This is a very useful report for comparing multiple students at one time.

Relevant Terminology

Scaled Score (SS) – The scaled score is figured based on the difficulty of the questions as well of the number of questions that were correct. STAR Reading uses a scale range of 0-1400. This score can be used to compare students to each other as well as themselves over time.

Percentile Rank (PR – The percentile rank allows students to be compared to other students nationally that are in the same grade. For example, a student who scores in the 77th percentile scores better than 76% of students in their grade but lower than 23% of students in their grade.

Grade Equivalent (GE) – The grade equivalent represents how a student performs compared to other students nationally. For example, a fifth-grade student who scores a grade equivalent of 8.3 scores as well as a student who is in the eighth grade and third month.

Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) – This is the range of readability which a student should be required to select books. Reading in this range provides students with the optimal opportunity to maximize reading growth.

Books at this level are not too easy or too difficult for the student to read.

ATOS – A readability formula that uses average sentence length, average word length, vocabulary grade level, and the number of words to calculate the overall difficulty of a book.

Overall

STAR Reading is a very good reading assessment program especially if you already use the Accelerated Reader program. Its best features are that it is quick and easy to use for teachers and students to use and reports can be generated in seconds. In my opinion, the assessment relies too much on cloze reading passages within the assessment. I believe a truly accurate reading assessment would use a more balanced and comprehensive approach. However, STAR is a great quick screening tool to identify struggling readers or individual reading strengths. There are better assessments available in terms of in-depth diagnostic assessments, but STAR reading will give you a quick snapshot of where a student is at any given point.  Overall, I give this program 3.5 out of 5 stars primarily because the assessment itself isn’t broad enough and there are times where consistency and accuracy are of concern.

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