Wis. Stats. 118.016 requires each pupil enrolled in 4-year-old kindergarten to 2nd grade in a school district or in a charter school to be annually assessed for reading readiness. Each school board and the operator of each charter school shall select the appropriate, valid, and reliable assessment of literacy fundamentals to be used. The school board or operator shall ensure that the assessment evaluates whether a pupil possesses phonemic awareness and letter sound knowledge.
In addition to the requirement to administer a literacy screener, the following conditions apply:
- The department shall pay to the school board or operator the per pupil cost of the selected assessment. If the appropriation in any fiscal year is insufficient to pay the full amount of aid, the state superintendent shall prorate state aid payments among the school boards and operators of charter schools entitled to the aid.
- The school board or operator of the charter school shall report the results of a pupil's assessment to the pupil's parent or guardian.
- The school board of the school district or operator of the charter school in which the pupil is enrolled shall provide a pupil whose assessment indicates that he or she is at risk of reading difficulty with interventions or remedial reading services, as described under Wis. Stats. 121.02(1)(c).
The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) has been the required screener for Wisconsin students since the 2012-13 school year when 5-year-old kindergarten students were first required to be screened. For the 2013-14 school year, the requirement to administer PALS was expanded to also include 4-year old kindergarten and first grade students. For the 2014-15 school year, the requirement to administer PALS was expanded to also include second grade students.
Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, districts may continue to use PALS or select a different assessment of reading readiness for use with each child enrolled in four-year-old kindergarten to second grade. The assessment of reading readiness, which could be computer adaptive, still must:
- Be administered at least annually
- Evaluate whether a child possesses phonemic awareness and letter sound knowledge
- Be an appropriate, valid, and reliable assessment of literacy fundamentals
- Include students enrolled in special education programs
School districts and charter schools will be responsible for the cost of administering the assessment of reading readiness chosen by the district or charter school. However, school districts and charter schools will be eligible to seek reimbursement from DPI for the costs of the assessment, provided the assessment meets the criteria established in state law (described above). These state aid payments will be prorated if the total reimbursement claims submitted by school districts and charter schools exceed the amount appropriated for this purpose.
Considerations When Selecting an Assessment of Reading Readiness
Decisions about reading readiness assessment may be best made through a collaborative process including district reading specialist, director of instruction, director of pupil services, and educators (including general and special educators). The team might consider:
- How closely the assessment reflects the school/district’s vision for literacy
- What elements of reading readiness the assessment measures (including phonemic awareness and letter sound knowledge)
- How information gathered from the assessment can inform instruction
- Where and how an assessment fits within the school/district’s larger strategic assessment system
- Developmental needs of children in four-year-old kindergarten to second grade
- To what extent the assessment meets the needs of a varied student population, including English language learners and students enrolled in special education programs
- Ease of reporting results to parents or guardians
- Administration protocols
- Technical qualities of the assessment, such as reliability and validity
- Cost of the assessment (including technology, administration costs, and related professional development/training)