“Flipping a coin would actually be better” for identifying struggling readers, one researcher said of the test created by influential curriculum developers Fountas and Pinnell.
The first thing Havah Kelley noticed was her son’s trouble with the alphabet. The San Francisco mom reviewed letters with him for hours at a time, reciting their names and tracing their shapes. But Kelley’s son couldn’t write most of them on his own. He reversed them or scrawled incoherent shapes. Halfway through his kindergarten year, his teacher said he still couldn’t recognize some letters on sight.
But that teacher told Kelley not to fret. She said she’d given the boy San Francisco Unified School District’s go-to reading test: the Benchmark Assessment System. His reading level on the test had landed within the appropriate range for his age. The teacher said he probably just needed time to catch on.
Kelley, a single parent living in Bayview, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, knew something wasn’t right. That year, in 2017, she asked the school to test her son for a learning disability. She said they gave her the runaround; their reading test, after all, showed her son was doing fine.