Providing placement test training to staff and conducting placement testing of students in the Direct Instruction (DI) programs are important first steps in implementing any model of DI. The individual assessment results allow students to be placed and grouped in specific DI programs. Placing and grouping students in late spring allows DI instruction to start on the first day of school. This initial assessment also provides a basis for ordering specific levels of the DI programs in reading, language, writing, math, and spelling, and the results from the initial assessment are used to determine which levels of the programs teachers need to be trained to teach. Since the instructional skills used to teach DI programs and levels are highly different, it is vital that teachers be trained in the specific program levels that they are going to teach.

Student testing is usually scheduled in the late spring and takes anywhere from three to five days, depending on the number of students to test and the number of tests to administer. Staff members are trained to administer placement tests and record test results. This testing team needs to be excused from school duties to have time to test students during the school day. After the initial training, the NIFDI trainer monitors individual testing to ensure that results are reliable and to answer questions about unique student responses. Testers continue to administer the tests until all students have been tested—even if the trainer from the National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI) has departed. The size of the testing team will depend on the number of students to test. Initial placement test training can be provided in-person or remotely, with in-person training and monitoring of student testing as the preferred model. The amount of time needed for placement test training will vary according to how many program level tests will need to be used in identifying the appropriate program placement for students. The time for training ranges from one to two hours per program level.

The placement tests appear in the Teacher’s Guides that are available through McGraw-Hill Education. Most tests take approximately 10-15 minutes to administer, although there’s a great deal of variation based on student skill level. Students may need to complete multiple tests in order to find the correct placement. Tests are administered to individuals and/or groups depending on the program and level being tested. For example, the Level 1 Reading Mastery test is administered to individuals only, while the Level 3 Reading Mastery Test has both an individual and a group component. 

NIFDI supplies materials for the trainer (slides and handouts) and a master set of placement tests for all levels of the DI programs to be used at the school. The school makes the appropriate copies from the master set for each student continuing at the school. A record of placement test results and placement test protocols is shared with NIFDI, which analyzes the protocols and creates student lists for the initial, homogeneous instructional groupings. 

IMPORTANT: Lack of an accurate initial assessment can prevent a Direct Instruction implementation from getting off to a strong start. If students are initially misplaced in a program, teachers may not receive training in the appropriate levels of the program, and the school may not start the school year with the materials it needs for all students. Starting students in a lesson that is too difficult can be discouraging for students and may result in less-than-optimal progress and disruptive behaviors. Starting students in a lesson that is too easy can be boring for students and may result in less-than-optimal progress and withdrawal or other negative behaviors. Placing students at their current skill level is an important step to ensure that students feel good about themselves, their abilities and their school while they progress through the Direct Instruction sequence! 

For additional information, including the administration instructions and the placement tests, see:

Placement Testing

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