Basal or Grade Level
When a teacher says your child is reading at, above or below grade level, she may be basing that on the basal reading system adopted by the school district. Educational publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Scott Pearson publish a number of comprehensive basal reading programs that incorporate reading, vocabulary, spelling and writing into one system. The textbooks and accompanying workbooks are leveled by grade.
Fountas Pinnell Guided Reading Level
The guided reading approach to literacy is a widely used system. It was developed by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell and uses a detailed alphabetic system to rate books within a grade level. That means that your 1st grader isn’t limited to only Grade 1 or Level 1 books; he has a whole range of variability therein. The Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Books Website has a database of nearly 20,000 leveled books from which to choose.
A child’s guided reading level is evaluated at the beginning of the program by using a book the child has never read before, called a benchmark book. The teacher will keep a Running Record of the mistakes he makes, ask some questions when he is done and calculate his level. A child should be able to read with about 95 percent oral accuracy and have a comprehension score of approximately 75 percent before he moves to the next level.
Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)
The Development Reading Assessment, more commonly known as the DRA, is similar to the Guided Reading Level in that students are tested at the beginning of the program using a benchmark book. However, the DRA is a kit of leveled books and standardized achievement tests put together and sold by the educational company, Pearson. The test measures oral accuracy, fluency, and comprehension and provides a score of significantly below, below, near, at, or above grade level. After that determination is made, the corresponding books are numerically leveled from 1 to 80.