Should omissions be analyzed? What if a student omits headings?

By Admin at January 13, 2011 10:37
Filed Under: Assessment and Progress Monitoring, Benchmark Assessment System

Many people wonder about analyzing omissions while taking a reading record for Benchmark Assessment System 1 and 2.  

Q: Should omissions be analyzed? What if a student omits headings?

 A: Omissions and insertions are generally not analyzed as they are usually related to structure. Skipping headings means each word in a heading is an error but is not really related to structure. Rather, it is missing a line of print. Instead of analyzing, simply make a note on the reading record that will remind you that this child needs help with learning to read headings.

For more examples of reading records we encourage you to visit samples at:


The Importance of Administering Benchmark Assessment by the Classroom Teacher

We often get asked if a paraprofessional or "assessment team" can administer the Benchmark Assessment. It is important that the classroom teacher be the administrator and we would like to take this opportunity to help explain the rationale behind this.


Benchmark Assessment System was designed for classroom teachers to systematically examine a student’s strengths and needs to gather data about reading behaviors and processing in order to develop instructional goals.  Classroom teachers are trained to administer the assessments in a standardized way to reduce the frequency of errors in administration and obtain standardized results.  It is most important for classroom teachers to administer the assessment rather than a testing team or paraprofessionals for the following reasons:



·         BAS is an authentic assessment where the classroom teachers observe their students reading and writing about reading.  It is not only a matter of getting scores or a level, it is the observation of students while reading and writing that provides the teacher with important information for planning instruction.

·         The classroom teacher becomes knowledgeable about the strengths and weaknesses of each student and gets important information about fluency as she listens to each student read.

·         As the classroom teacher has a conversation with the student about the book just read, she learns about the student’s ability to interact and discuss what is read.  She gets to know each student in a one-to-one setting.

·         Having time with each student to gather data about their reading and writing about reading is valuable as opposed to interpreting cold data gathered by another professional.

We hope this has cleared up any confusion you may have had.



         The Fountas & Pinnell Team



Benchmark Assessment System Case Study Student Reading Records

Case study student reading records are now available for the Benchmark Assessment Systems (BAS) 1 and 2, 2nd Edition. The Benchmark Assessment case studies are provided in the Assessment Guide for BAS 1, 2nd Edition beginning on page 61 (the "Monitoring Progress and Case Studies" tab), and BAS 2 (2nd Edition) beginning on page 59. These case studies examine several students in grades 1 through 7, as well as the reading progress monitoring records of individual students at different points in time.

Here are the available case studies; the student records and progress monitoring forms can be downloaded at:

Grade 1 Case Studies (BAS 1)

  • Jared - Has experienced difficulty attending to print and writing his name in kindergarten
  • Selena - An English Language Learner (ELL) who recently moved to a new school
  • Wyatt - Has advanced scores on the Benchmark Assessment and Where-to-Start Word Test
  • Kendra - A reader at three different points in time

Grade 2 Case Studies (BAS 1)

  • Anson - Has limited English proficiency and a mixed-language home environment
  • Heath - Started experiencing reading difficulties in first grade
  • Jacob - Identified as having a learning disability and has received classroom instruction and supplemental reading support
  • Sharla - Has a strong grasp of high-frequency words, two-syllable words, and letter-sound relationships

Grade 3 Case Study (BAS 2)

  • Cynthia - A Khmer-speaking ELL student who is on grade level for the middle of third grade

Grade 4 Case Studies (BAS 2)

  • Francesco - Has strong accuracy/comprehension and the ability to self-correct effectively, but a slighly below-average reading rate
  • Peti - A fourth grade student who recently moved to the United States and has been learning English for 15 months

Grade 5 Case Studies (BAS 2)

  • Forest - Has strong fluency scores and an excellent reading rate but has demonstrated difficulty comprehending nonfiction texts
  • Hannah - Learning disabled, receives comprehension support from a special education teacher, and has been on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) since grade 3
  • Orlando - Bilingual with limited exposure to English outside of the classroom
  • Henry - A reader at three different points in time

Grade 7 Case Study (BAS 2)

  • Tanicia - Demonstrates strong accuracy/comprehension and the ability to self-correct effectively, but has a slighly below-average reading rate

Benchmark Assessment System Questions

Many teachers and reading specialists are currently busy implementing our Benchmark Assessment System (BAS). A recent conversation we had with an elementary principal raised some important questions about how to effectively implement the system. We hope these answers are helpful to those of you who are currently working to evaluate your students' reading abilities with the Benchmark Assessment System.


Question: There are two stories at each level, one fiction and one non-fiction. How do you proceed with the assessment when a student has read both stories at a level and is not ready to go to the next level. What text would be used with the student?

Answer: It would be a concern that a student reads both texts. Generally only one text is needed at a level unless something is very unusual in the child’s progress. . The benchmark assessment is not designed to be used to judge when the child should move to the next level. Rather it is an interval assessment. Ongoing assessment should include coding of the child’s reading on a regular basis not using the benchmark assessment but using the texts that are used for instruction.

If the benchmark assessment is used as an interval assessment which is the intention, that means it would be given at the beginning of the year and likely sometime near the end of the year. Sometimes schools choose to give it midyear only to students below level or to all students and at the far end it is given quarterly which is really too frequent. So a child would likely not be at the same level in a half year or even a quarter which would mean the child made no progress. If for some reason that is true, there is a second text or an alternate to use. Further, if there is an extreme case and the text was too hard the last time and now child reads it again it would be okay because it was too difficult for the child last time and the assessment stopped.


Question: Although the Assessment guide states that the pairs of texts at each level (fiction and non-fiction) have been matched and if a student can read one genre he is likely to be able to read the other. The teachers have found that the non-fiction texts are more difficult and if a child has read the fiction text at an independent level and is then given the non-fiction text at the same level, he reads this at an instructional level or it is too hard. How do we note progress using the different genres?

Answer: We would not suggest administering the assessment that way. If your students are doing less well on nonfiction it is a reflection of the instructional program and you should use more nonfiction in the teaching of reading. Benchmark assessment is a standardized assessment. You should alternate a fiction at one level and the nonfiction at the next level. Disregard how you think the students may do in various genres. The same variance could happen with historical fiction vs. realistic friction vs. fantasy or a student could read one topic better than another. That is not the purpose of the assessment. Rather you want to sample the reading across increasingly challenging levels to get a good place to start teaching. When you begin teaching you can move a child up or down a level based on your ongoing observations and your ongoing coding of the reading. Benchmark assessment is a sampling to get you to a good place to start.


Question: The assessment guide mentions interim running records, are there specific texts for this purpose? (We are in the process of developing benchmark texts for interim running records, but will not have them ready for a few months.)

Answer: We would not suggest developing benchmarks for interval assessments. It would be doing double the work and not getting as good information. Rather simply listen to the child read 100-150 words of the text used for instruction the day before and have a brief comprehension conversation to examine the effects of the teaching. That is the purpose of interval ongoing assessment- to see how the child is responding to the instructional program.

Questions about Fountas and Pinnell Teaching Systems

This back-to-school season the Fountas & Pinnell Forum at has received a swarm of implementation questions for Leveled Literacy Intervention, the Benchmark Assessment System, and other Fountas and Pinnell teaching systems such as The Continuum of Literacy Learning. Below are some of the top questions we have received and answers to help you start the new school year right!

As always, we welcome and appreciate your feedback and questions! You can post your questions to the Fountas & Pinnell Community of educators by using the "Forums" link at the top of our blog, or just click here to see a list of all the conversation threads in our forums.


Forum Questions about Fountas & Pinnell teaching systems

Benchmark Assessment System - 1st Edition vs 2nd Edition
Question: What are the differences between the two kits? Are the passages the same?

Answer: This page summarizes the changes between the first and second editions of Benchmark: Overall they are largely the same; the 2nd edition provides enhancements for ease of use (improved Assessment Guide format) and information on working with specific student populations (ELL, Special Education - for example). No new little books have been added, but slight adjustments have been made to the running word counts in the upper-level nonfiction books.  The Pre-K Continuum has also been added.

If you are transitioning from the old Benchmark edition to the new one, you can order a BAS 2nd Edition Compatibility Package. If you do not plan to implement the 2nd Edition alongside the 1st Edition you do not need this package. We recommend that you continue to use your system as you do now. If you plan to use the 2nd Edition system alongside the 1st Edition, the package will allow you to have consistency across systems. We recommend that you request the Compatibility Pack.

Progressing through Benchmark Assessment levels:

I have a second grade group who has all had Reading Recovery and did not progress. They Benchmarked at level D and have gone through the 10 green lessons with average of 93% accuracy. When we moved to level E this week, they scored in the 83% range on the first Running Record. Because I worked with them so intensely, I have a feeling that when their time comes up to be tested, they will need additional special education services. My question is: "Should I progress through level E or do the level D in the blue system so they can be successful?" Your thoughts, please??

Answer: You are on the right track with wanting your second graders to be successful. Children need success to learn. Perhaps more time reading at Level D from the Blue System would be beneficial. You could also try more Level E books and increase your level of support in the introductions and their first reading of the new book.

It would be helpful to do another study of their reading records from the 10 green lessons to see if there are any patterns emerging and compare your findings with how readers are processing text in the Continuum of Literacy Learning at Level D. The introductory paragraph to Level D gives important information about readers at this level (not to be missed).

Also, as you examine the reading records over the last ten lessons, go through the behaviors and understandings to notice, teach and support that are listed in the Continuum with this group in mind. Have you analyzed these reading records with a colleague? Sometimes having several people interpret and discuss the reading records sheds more light and gives new direction for your teaching. How much are these second graders reading when they are not with you? They need increased time with easy book.

Question: We are testing students using the Benchmark system in grades 1 and 2. Many of the students scores are falling below 90% at the Level A. Where do we start with them? Are we able to use the LLI with them? If so, what level do we start on?

Answer: Yes - you could use the Orange System of LLI for your students who are reading below A and start at the beginning of the System because you will be reading to them and with them before you ask them to read a text by themselves. This support will help them read Level A texts independently.


Teaching phonics for kindergarten:
I am wondering if anyone uses the Phonics Lessons in their Kindergarten, Gr.1, or Gr. 2 classroom...I am teaching a K-2 class and am trying to choose a Phonics/Spelling program and am wondering if you have found it comprehensive enough to teach sight words, spelling and phonics?

Answer: The Fountas and Pinnell Phonics and Word Study Lessons Grades K-3 is a comprehensive series of lessons for phonics and word study that is based on research and how children learn. It is designed on a continuum of knowledge that includes nine areas of learning: Early Literacy Concepts, Phonological and Phonemic Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Letter/Sound Relationships, Spelling Pattersn, High-Frequency Words, Word Meaning, Word Structure, and Word-Solving Actions. will provide you with a program overview. Along with these Phonics and Word Study Lessons for K, 1, 2, and 3, there is a large amount of professional development built in to increase your knowledge of the linguistic systems, there is a direct connection to reading and writing, and there are built-in assessments that will provide you with data to inform your instruction. We are confident that you will find these lessons comprehensive enough to teach sight words, spelling and phonics.


Teaching balanced literacy, Reading Recovery, and special needs students:
Question: I am a reading intervention teacher and I have enjoyed using the LLI programs with my 1st and 2nd grade struggling readers this year I have seen much progress. My district has decided that pulling groups out of the classroom is a no-no and that coteaching is the way to go for next year. I am passionate about helping struggling readers learn to read and I don't feel they can be helped with a "hit-or-miss" approach. I think they need a daily, systematic, sequential program. From what we have been told with coteaching we are not to work with the same groups of children every day. I think this is a disservice to those struggling readers who feel so much success when they work with me. Do you have suggestions as to how I can provide help for these children under those conditions? It is breaking my heart that after only one year with LLI I will have to give it up, yet how can it be used when I will be in multiple classrooms and will not be allowed to have a set group each time?

Answer: Your district is setting up a completely different delivery design than the one suggested for LLI, so it is a problem. We believe skipping around to different groups and giving struggling readers only occasional help will not have instructional power and is not supported by research.

It is a little hard to understand exactly what will be happening. Will there be two teachers in the classroom at the same time for a morning or a day? Or, will you move from class to class taking groups? LLI has been very successfully used in a "corner" or small designated space in a classroom so that children do not leave. It seems a major challenge you have is in providing a sequence of lessons that allow children to build momentum. You might try to make a case for the most struggling readers to have at least four lessons per week (realizing that you will not get the acceleration possible with five lessons) With two teachers present, you would be able to allow 30 minutes. Perhaps you could present your administrator with a systematic plan that allows for you to do the co-teaching they want and at the same time work intensively with one or two groups. It will be very important to collect student data and analyze it.

If all of this fails, be sure to gather your results from this year and prepare a concise written report that also includes how you implemented LLI.
This is a responsible thing to do in any case and you will have a written record that you can come back to as you evaluate results for next year. We hope this helps. Let us know how it is going.


Question: I would like to know more about why this reading program is not designed for students w/ dyslexia. Is it designed for students w/ language learning disabilities? Thanks. Is any part of the Fountas Pinnell reading program specifically designed for dyslexia/language learning disabled children?

Answer: Although Fountas & Pinnell programs such as BAS and LLI are not specifically designed for students with autism/dyslexia or other learning disabilities, many people do use them in such circumstances. (see this forum thread for an example). Some research has been done on using guided reading with autistic children (this article, for example), but for the most part the programs are used in regular education classrooms. While many people use Fountas & Pinnell guided reading programs for special needs students, there hasn't yet been a large-scale study on this topic, and the programs themselves are not specifically designed for special needs populations.

All evidence available at this time indicates that the instructional principles of guided reading are appropriate for use with special needs students, and this is something that Fountas & Pinnell hope to address more closely in their upcoming work.

Here are a few more articles that you might find helpful:
Supporting Literacy With Guided Reading
Strategies for Teaching Reading to Visual Learners
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) also has several articles on using guided reading with special needs students, but many of them are available to members only.


Question: I teach kindergarten through second grade special education (mostly LD and cognitive disabilities) in a large urban midwest city. I am also lucky to be trained in Reading Recovery, although our district dropped the program several years ago. I read When Readers Struggle this summer, and I am going to use the LLI lesson format using any materials I can find. I am also writing a grant to purchase at least the BAS and the first grade LLI kit, since we have less than no money for materials. If I get the grant, I'll have to collect a lot of data, and I will be happy to share my results with you. Do you have any advice on how I can make it clear in the grant that LLI will help support my instruction more than my dwindling collection of Reading Recovery books?

Answer: At under the Fountas and Pinnell tab, in the right hand column, you will see Research and Data Collection. You will find the research and data for both the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems and the Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention. There is valuable information that will help you with your grant writing.


Using Leveled Literacy Intervention in conjunction with DRA reading levels:
Question: My school ordered the blue system in the LLI. I read that that system is primarily for second grade and above. However, I teach first grade. Students who are on a DRA 3 and below are pulled to participate in the LLI-blue system. I love using the LLI, but I didn't know if my students would be more successful using the green system than the blue. Is there much of a difference?

Answer: The Green System is for Levels A though J – designed for 1st Grade

The Blue System is for Levels C through N – designed for 2nd/3rd Grade

The LLI systems are coordinated with the grade levels and the books were written to coordinate with the different age levels. The Green System has a series of 10 Getting Started lessons that children reading a C or below need before starting into lessons. Another difference would be the phonics lessons which are systematic and explicit. You may see a difference with the needs of your first graders and the Phonics portion of the lessons in the Blue System. The Green System will be more appropriate for struggling first graders. You will have to make your decisions for teaching based on the observation of your groups of LLI children rather than following the guide in the Blue System. If you could have the Green System, you would have a wider range of options.


Organization and management of classroom materials:
Question: I am using the green kit with 2 groups and the blue kit with 3 groups as a Title 1 Reading Specialist. Two of my groups I walk to, carrying materials. I find it difficult to carry the manuals and to keep switching manuals between groups. To solve that I resorted to copying the manual pages for each group so I just carry the pages needed and each group has the manual pages with their daily materials. Does anyone have a better solution than copying the whole manual? Is there a possibility that the manuals would be on CD so that they could be printed as needed for a group?

Answer: The teachers in our building who teach multilevel LLI groups pull a cart on wheels, purchased from Staples or some other office store. That way, it is easy for them to also have all of the LLI materials, books, etc that they need right with them. They pack them up at the end of every day so they are ready in the morning.


Question: I am getting things ready for this school year. Does anyone have a great way to organize all the materials for LLI? I have all three systems and need to keep things organized for multiple people to use. Please let me know how you have organized your materials.

Answer: Until districts have the funds to purchase more systems, they have tried several ways to organize their materials to share with others.

The districts that have a book room designate a section for their LLI books and materials. They keep the books (and they had to purchase extra copies of books because they could not predict when two teachers might have a group on the same lesson) organized by Lesson number on their bookshelves. They have a checkout system for the LLI books similar to the one they use for their Guided Reading books. They have 3 ring binders containing plastic sleeves for each lesson that contain copies of reading records, parent letters, fold sheets, picture cards, word cards. . . whatever is needed for each lesson in a sleeve labeled with the lesson number (some lessons required several plastic sleeves since they have multiple copies of everything needed for the lesson). The binders are kept on the shelves with the books organized by Lesson number. They purchased Lesson Guides for each teacher and keep the Program Guide/DVD’s with the LLI books. They developed a system for replenishing materials needed for the lessons when the supply was down to the last two. The teachers decide whether they checkout materials for the week, a number of days at a time or daily.

Other districts had a similar system with file cabinets because they do not have the luxury of space in the book room. Rather than keep three ring binders of lesson materials in sleeves, the teachers made their own copies of materials for the lessons to keep in files in their rooms. They purchased copies of the Lesson Guides for each teacher.

Copernicus Educational Products is now offering three smart storage systems designed specifically for use with guided reading programs such as Leveled Literacy Intervention. They are all available on the Copernicus website, here:

There is also a video on TeacherTube about organizing a guided reading classroom - you might find some good tips her as well.


Leveled Literacy Intervention for upper elementary grades and middle school:
Question: I have heard that LLI kits will be created to extended into grades 3-5. If so, when will they be available?

Additionally, will the lessons differ from the current kits? (time, components of the lesson, comprehension)

I have used the blue kit with 3-5 students and have seen tremendous growth in my students' reading levels, confidence, and attitude toward reading. I would love to see the progress students would be able to make with materials matched to the grade level of the students!

Answer: Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas posted an updated about the development of LLI for grades 3-8 on their blog. You can read the post here:

More updates on their progress will be posted as development of these new LLI levels progresses.


~The Fountas & Pinnell Team

Fountas and Pinnell Systems Named as Core Components of MA Reading Success Initiative

Fountas & Pinnell's Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) and the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) have been cited as essential reading and literacy intervention components of an initiative to improve student reading proficiency in Springfield, MA. The Turing The Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success initiative, which is led by the Cherish Every Child initiative of the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, is defined in "Reading Success by 4th Grade: A Blueprint for Springfield" (.pdf). The Springfield school district activities are just a part of a statewide initiative to improve children's language and literacy development in Massachusetts.

Beginning in the fall of 2009, the Benchmark Assessment System was implemented for students in grades K-5. Springfield Public Schools utilize the system because it "provides teachers with detailed, quantifiable assessment of reading comprehension so they can differentiate instruction in small guided reading groups."

While BAS will be used to help evaluate the reading proficiency and comprehension ability of all students, the LLI program will be used primarily with under-performing readers in grades K-2.

During the summer of 2009, Springfield Public Schools [SPS] received a Title One Redesign and Restructuring Grant: Innovation Through Summer Semester Program from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. SPS used the grant resources to pilot the Leveled Literacy Intervention strategy for under-performing children who were entering the first and second grades at the Frederick Harris School. After participating in jjst one half-hour per day of LLI for five weeks, 37% of students made gains of one reading level, 41% made gains of two or more reading levels and 19% maintained their reading level. As a result of these gains over a short period of time, the district added LLI as a Tier 2 intervention. Beginning in fall 2010, every elementary school will have one of each of the three leveles of LLI kits and a minimum of one staff member per building will have LLI training.

The Turing The Page initiative aims to "Increase the quality of children's language and reading environments across the many settings in which they are growing up, from birth to age 9." Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention and Benchmark Assessment System are sure to be an integral part of this important literacy education initiative for many years to come.

Benchmark Assessment System 2nd Edition is Now Available

Benchmark Assessment System, 2nd EditionWe are very pleased to announce that the 2nd edition of the Benchmark Assessment System is now available from Heinemann Publishing. The Benchmark Assessment System is a one-on-one, comprehensive assessment to determine independent and instructional reading levels, for placing students on the Fountas & Pinnell A-Z Text Gradient, and connecting assessment to instruction with the Continuum of Literacy Learning.

As with the first edition, the 2nd edition of the Benchmark Assessment System is available in two unique flavors:

Irene Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell describe Benchmark Assessment System, 2nd Edition:

"As we work with teachers and students, we continually refine our assessment and instructional systems to provide the most current, efficient measurement tools and teaching supports for improved decision making and data reporting on behalf of students. With the Second Edition, we have made key changes based on widespread use of the BAS.

Based on the feedback of many teachers and administrators, we have made changes in the Assessment Guide that will provide stronger support for professional development and support teachers in using the BAS with efficiency. The Continuum of Literacy Learning also has a more user-friendly design.

Because of the greater attention to pre-kindergarten literacy, we have expanded The Continuum of Literacy Learning to include continua that will support teachers in this area. We have also updated some of the principles to reflect changes in assessment and learning.

While the student texts for the BAS are essentially the same (to provide consistency with the first edition), we have provided new designs for the BAS2 fiction books that will have greater appeal to pre-adolescents and adolescents and made a few minor changes in the nonfiction texts to reflect current knowledge. Based on observation, we have adjusted word count in nonfiction texts to reflect reading section headings.

The guide for the comprehension conversation at levels A to K has been adjusted slightly to have greater emphasis on thinking about the author's craft. The scoring rubric however remains the same. You will also find a new DVD with many examples to support professional development.

For more details about the changes click here.

By the way, if you are currently using the 2008 Edition and plan to combine it with the Second Edition in your school, you might want to order a complimentary Compatibility Pack."


- Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell


For more information about the second edition of the Benchmark Assessment System visit the following websites:




Common Questions about the Benchmark Assessment System

With the upcoming release of the 2nd edition of our Benchmark Assessment System (BAS), we thought it would be helpful to look at some of the most frequently asked questions about what the system is and how it works.

For answers to more common questions about the Benchmark Assessment System, visit the Benchmark Assessment Frequently Asked Questions webpage or the Fountas & Pinnell Support Resources webpage.

What is the Benchmark Assessment System?

The Benchmark Assessment System is a one-on-one, comprehensive assessment to determine independent and instructional reading levels, for placing students on the Fountas & Pinnell A-Z Text Gradient, and connecting assessment to instruction with the Continuum of Literacy Learning. A benchmark assessement system is a series of texts that can be used to identify a student's current reading level and progress along a gradient of text levels over time. The word "benchmark" means a standard against which to measure something.


Why is benchmark assessment a valuable use of time?

Conducting benchmark assessment allows you to...

  • Determine your students' independent and instructional reading levels.
  • Determine reading placement levels and group students for reading instruction.
  • Select texts that will be productive for student's instruction.
  • Assess the outcomes of teaching.
  • Assess a new student's reading level for independent reading and instruction.
  • Identify students who need intervention.
  • Document student progress across a school year and across grade levels.
  • Inform parent conferences.

    Why are the criterion for accuracy so much more challenging for Benchmark Assessment System levels L-Z?

    Please see our document, "A Higher Criterion for Accuracy, Levels L-Z" (.doc) for a detailed explanation of why the accuracy criterion are increased significantly for the later levels.


    What is the source of the words in the Benchmark word lists?

    The Benchmark word lists were compiled to include the words that appear most frequently (in our survey of leveled texts) in the books that children read from earlier levels to about end of grade four. In addition all word lists were checked with several different lists, including both Spache and Dolch. They are not identical to either list but there is a great deal of consistency across them. Finally, the lists were check with teachers.

    The words that appear on the word lists are "tier 1 words," meaning that they are frequently used in oral language and in general literature. The lists do not include "tier 2" and "tier 3" words—words not in common use or technical words related to content areas. These words are those that appear most frequently.


    How does the Benchmark Assessment System address Response to Intervention (RTI) compliance?

    With the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, you can monitor reading level three times each year. This assessment will yield level (with equivalent grade levels), accuracy, fluency, and detailed information and scores on comprehension. This system has been extensively field tested. You can have students complete a writing prompt to further assess comprehension. You can use optional assessments to monitor progress in phonemic awareness, phonics, letter learning, and high frequency word knowledge. You can establish expectations in each of these areas based on your own district's requirements. A grid is currently in development to establish criteria for each grade level, beginning, middle, and end.


    Why are the Little Books for Benchmark 2 shorter than the ones for Benchmark 1?

    The books for Levels L-N in Benchmark 1 while longer (16 pp), contain illustrations that give young readers picture support. The books from L-Z in Benchmark 2 are shorter (4 pp), and contain almost no illustrations with the exception of nonfiction text features like diagrams and maps to support the older reader. Length is only one factor in text difficulty and it is not a significant one unless you are talking about a large difference (50 to 100) in number of pages (which would inevitably place a greater burden on memory). A short text can be very hard, with difficult vocabulary, complex sentences, and complex ideas. A long text can be easy, with familiar concepts and vocabulary and simple sentences.

    Another consideration was the amount of time required to administer the assessment. The length of selections in the the Benchmark System 2, provides an adequate sample for assessing an older child’s oral and silent reading, vocabulary, capacity to solve multisyllable words, and ability to interpret more sophisticated content.


    How do the Fountas & Pinnell Text Gradient Levels equate with Basal, DRA, Rigby, and Reading Recovery levels?

    View the Grade-Level Equivalence Chart (.pdf) to see how F&P Text Gradient levels equate with other readability scale levels.


    How do Lexile levels correlate to the Fountas & Pinnell Text Gradient levels?

    There may be a statistical correlation between Lexile levels and F & P levels. For example, if you run measures on thousands of books and over many levels, there would be a correlation. We have not performed these analyses ourselves. The lower F & P levels, in general, would have lower Lexile scores. The higher F & P levels generally would have higher scores. But this kind of correlation is not the same as a precise matching of levels, for example, a Lexile range of numbers corresponds to a specific A to Z level in a reliable way. The two systems are based on some of the same text factors but not all. Metametrics uses a mathematical formula, which they can explain. The F & P levels are based on the ten text factors named in several of our books. A group of raters reach reliability after independent analysis. We can not say with high prediction that a given book with a certain Lexile score will fall into a category on the F & P gradient. Every time we have looked at Lexile levels for texts that seem highly reliable on our scale, we have found a number of "outliers."


    Are the end of grade level benchmarks nationally normed?

    The grade level benchmarks are not nationally normed. That would take a large random sample of students taken across the United States and Canada and a great deal of testing. It is just not appropriate for this kind of system.

    The levels have, however, been tested in a large field study. The end-of-year expectations as defined in our system are consistent with recommended national standards from the National Center on Education and the Economy. Districts do have a choice in adjusting the expectations to meet their own standards. There are slight variations from place to place, but we have stated levels that indicate typical satisfactory progress.


    For answers to more common questions about the Benchmark Assessment System, visit the Benchmark Assessment Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

    Using Guided Reading Programs for Response to Intervention (RTI)

    The Response to Intervention (RTI) framework is helping change the way schools approach intervention and remediation. Guided reading instructional programs and assessments such as Leveled Literacy Intervention and the Benchmark Assessment System have embedded features to enable their use in the RTI framework. Below are answers to some typical questions about using the LLI and BAS guided reading programs in RTI systems. For more information about using guided reading instruction to support the Response to Intervention framework, please see the following:

    Questions about using guided reading instructional programs for Response to Intervention:

    Question: How does the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System address RTI compliance?

    Answer: With the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, you can monitor reading level three times each year. This assessment will yield level (with equivalent grade levels), accuracy, fluency, and detailed information and scores on comprehension. This system has been extensively field tested. You can have students complete a writing prompt to further assess comprehension. You can use optional assessments to monitor progress in phonemic awareness, phonics, letter learning, and high frequency word knowledge. You can establish expectations in each of these areas based on your own district's requirements. A grid is currently in development to establish criteria for each grade level, beginning, middle, and end.

    Question: We are looking very seriously at purchasing the Benchmark Assessment System for our K - 8 grade teachers (198 total), however, I was curious as to how/if other school districts are using these materials for bi-weekly progress monitoring. (RTI Tier 3) Since the materials are limited in regards to repetitive assessment, would the results gleaned from using these assessments 2x/month be valid? I look forward to your response.

    Answer: You would not want to use the Benchmark Assessment System as often as every two weeks. You can, however, select Optional Assessments included in BAS which can provide valuable diagnostic information. On this website, you will find Instructional Level Expectation Charts that will be useful for RtI progress monitoring. Another strategy is to take regular reading records using leveled books. You can take these records as a regular, integral part of small group instruction or intervention groups.

    The schedule below indicates the way one school district has made this practice operational. Optional assessments could vary by grade level. For example, K and Grade 1 students could use Phonemic Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Word Writing, and High Frequency Word Recognition. Older readers could use assessments like the Word Features Assessment.

    Week 1 -- Full Benchmark Assessment system, including text-reading level and selected optional assessments (four selected)
    Week 2 -- Text reading level using any leveled book
    Week 3 -- BAS Optional Assessments #1 and #2
    Week 4 -- Text reading level using any leveled book
    Week 5 -- BAS Optional Assessments #3 and #4
    Week 6 -- Text reading level using any leveled book
    Week 7 -- BAS Optional Assessments #1 and #2
    Week 8 -- Text reading level using any leveled book
    Week 9 -- BAS Optional Assessments #3 and #4
    Week 10 -- Text reading level using any leveled book
    Week 11 -- BAS Optional Assessments #1 and #2
    Week 12 -- Text Reading Level using any leveled book
    Week 13 -- BAS Optional Assessments #3 and #4
    Week 14 -- Benchmark Assessment Text Reading Level

    Question: We are already implementing LLI. Some of our teachers are questioning the idea of doing the informal running records on children after they have read the book previously. They are used to doing the DRA with children on a cold read. Could you share the philosophy behind doing the assessments after children have read the book?

    Answer: Tools like our Benchmark Assessment System and ongoing progress monitoring (running records) are similar procedures with two different purposes.

    Benchmark Assessment is conducted at specific intervals throughout the school year (e.g., beginning, middle, end of year). It is always conducted in a highly standardized way and the results are recorded. These results provide a starting point for instruction and also measure achievement over time. Reading records are taken on a first reading of a previously unseen text, with a highly standardized introduction. This reading provides a very conservative estimate of what a child can do without teaching.

    Ongoing running records (or reading records as we use them in LLI) are taken at regular intervals as an integral part of instruction. They provide an assessment of a child’s performance on the second reading of a text. We would expect a child to demonstrate more effective reading on a level after he has experienced teaching and a first reading. This gives us an ongoing check on what we are teaching him to do as a reader. It informs ongoing teaching as well. So, the teacher is getting immediate feedback on the effectiveness of her teaching. She is always working for greater and greater independence so that the student will ultimately demonstrate those effective behaviors on higher levels during Benchmark Assessment.

    Both are standardized, and both provide information about reading behaviors and the appropriateness of the level. Ongoing running records have the additional value of showing us what the reader can do with teaching. Often, the teacher is working on the child`s benchmark tested instructional level and finds that on the second reading, the child is demonstrating accuracy and comprehension as if this is the independent level. That, in fact, is what we want. The teaching has made the difference--making it possible for the child to be an extremely proficient reader on a level that would be a little harder without the teaching.

    Question: We are looking to successfully implement RTI while philosophically maintaining the balanced literacy approach--being sure to continue to place value on all areas of reading. Will the new LLI system allow for intervention as well as weekly progress monitoring that can be shown as data?

    Answer: LLI is an intervention system. It is designed to be used with readers who need extra help to learn to read up to level N (first part of grade 3). It can be used with any kind of literacy curriculum, but it is certainly compatible with a balanced approach since each 30-minute lesson includes a great deal of reading continuous texts (really good books!), phonics/word study, and writing about reading. There is an intensive focus on teaching comprehension, but you will also find daily phonics lessons. In the guide you will find plans for implementing LLI within a layered, comprehensive literacy curriculum. Teachers use lesson guides with 300 specifically designed lessons to guide teaching. The system has a Data Management CD that makes it easy to track progress. Students` scores on text reading would be taken and record every 6 days (for a group of 3). You will also be advised on "check up" assessment of phonics skills and word knowledge. Please take a look at the RTI Charts we’ve developed for further information on this subject.

    Question: It seems like this system fits best as a Tier I intervention. In the field study districts that implement an RtI model, at which tier(s) did they implement the program? Are there different implementation guidelines/suggestions for different tiers?

    Answer: LLI can be implemented as a Tier 1, 2, or 3 intervention and various school districts have made their plans in different ways. A classroom teacher can provide more intensive small group instruction with LLI. The most common use is as a supplementary tier two or three intervention as it involves close diagnostic work for the short term. You will find many RTI documents on this website so you can review various options.

    Question: I have a question about the grade-level specific Expectations for reading charts for the Benchmark Assessment System. The charts show, for each grade level, in the Fall, Winter and Spring, which Tier (1, 2 or 3) students would fall under based on their scores on several assessments (leveled text, Word Features tests, etc.). What information were these levels based on? Is there any data available about what percentage of students in a grade are likely to fall in Tier 1, 2 or 3? More information on the development of these charts would be useful, as we would like to use this data to implement RTI in our schools.

    Answer: Beginning and ending grade level expectations are based on typical levels at each time period. They are consistent with state standards. If they are met, then student should be assured of making adequate progress across grades. (Note, that text levels are based not only on accuracy but on satisfactory comprehension.) Expectations at time points within grade levels have been created for the purposes of RTI monitoring. They provide a guide for constantly checking to see whether students are making satisfactory progress towards the end-of-year goal. This progress monitoring gives the teacher information on when and how much intervention might be needed. The percentage of students at each tier will vary greatly depending on the overall achievement in the school. We do not have numbers because of this variation. However, your expectation should be that when you have excellent classroom instruction and layers of effective interventions in place, about 80% of the students will fall into tier 1; that is; they will make sufficient progress with good classroom instruction. About 20% would need intervention (possibly a choice of several tier 2 interventions); and only about 5% would need intensive tier 3 interventions. When you are initially developing your literacy program, you may find many more students needing intervention. As you work together over time, you should find that the percentages change.

    Question: Am I correct in understanding that these LLI kits were developed to use for Tier 2 & 3 instruction, not for classroom teachers to use for Tier 1?

    Answer: LLI was designed to supplement good classroom teaching. This intervention can serve to close the achievement gap and bring children to grade level because they are getting something extra. Your district can decide how to use it as supplementary, intensive support for the children below grade level. Many schools use it for tier 2 or 3, though some schools have managed to provide coverage for the classroom teacher to provide extra lessons beyond the regular classroom instruction before school, after school, or even during the day while someone else works with the other children.