Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The DORA the 2nd Time Around: Not What We First Thought

It has been a year since I first had the boys take the Diagnostic Online Reading Assessment (DORA) from Let's Go Learn so we found a few good days recently and took it again. I remembered our experience last year and this time spread it over two days. Which was better for the kids, and worse for my nerves, as anyone who follows Sceleratus Classical Academy on facebook can attest to. But day 2 arrived and the boys finished and I eagerly/dreadingly looked at the results. Because it saves your account information and test results, I thought that being able to compare the results would give me even more information that last year's would. My biggest fear for Builder Boy was that his results would not show a year's worth of progress. My fear for Early Bird was that last year's test results were just a guessing fluke, and he'd score much lower this year.

I was shocked to see that both boys only showed improvement in only 2 out of 7 sub-tests. And in some categories did even slightly worse than the previous year. This was NOT indicative of what I knew as their teacher to be true of their progress. I sat and watched them both while taking the test and while I could guess at some reason why some of them were like that, I could not figure out why it should be so many. There was no testing anxiety (they don't even know this is a test.) They were no factors that I could see like lack of rest or hunger or anything else that might have contributed to lower scores. Had there been a change in the grading algorithm of the assessment program? Had the grade level standards changed drastically enough in the past year to account for this? I sent a query with those questions to the company's facebook page and the answer to both were "no." Oh Lord, that means I've completely failed these children for who's education I am solely responsible for.

The company has a costumer service number that you can call and I did. It turns out that the two of the first few tests, the High Frequency Word Sub-Test and the Phonics Sub-Test, have ceilings. The HF ceiling is 3.83 and the PH ceiling is 4.83. They showed no progress in those tests because they reached the ceilings both times. Phew! The information is available on the little question mark icon near the name of the test, but I did not know that until a helpful costumer service representative pointed it out to me.

Thankfully both of their scores in spelling went up. That's been one of our most neglected and haphazard subjects, and I was grateful that Builder Boy now at least tests at his current grade level. He also did much better on vocabulary, which I was glad to see that our work with Wordly Wise (which was prompted by last year's DORA results) paid off. Early Bird actually scored lower in vocabulary this year. Since he's working on the exact same level as Builder Boy in Wordly Wise this surprised me. The costumer service rep's guess was that maybe he just guessed lucky last year? I'm not so sure about that, but since it's still above his age level I'm going to ignore that score for a year and see how next year does.

They both did a little worse in the Reading Comprehension sub test. I think, having watched but not interfered with their testing, that part of Early Bird's lower score was an unfamiliarity with the "all the above" answer concept. He latched on to the first right answer and didn't read them all to see that they were all correct. Also, if I'm remembering correctly, last year on the reading comprehension I had them talk to me for a minute about it before answering questions, and I let them talk about questions with me without giving away the answer. I did not do that this year, and I think they did not process the text as well without talking about it. *** I am aware that this is a weak area for all of us, and I intend on focusing more on that in the coming year.

Over all, with some time, reflection, and explanations, I am glad we took it again, and I think I will do it again next year. I'll be better prepared for the variance in grade level results displayed, now that I know about the test ceilings, and perhaps third time will be the charm?

*** UPDATE: Originally this blog post said "Also, the Let's Go Learn representative told me that the previous year they had been tested on fiction stories, and this year on non-fiction, and it was possible that they were already familiar with some of the information the previous year and so answered more correctly." I spoke with another company representative today who had read my blog post and contacted me and he said that all the reading comprehension passages are non-fiction. There are three different reading selections that rotate, so even if they see the same grade level two years in a row they will see different texts.

He also directed me to the "DORA Comprehension Sub-test Analysis" which gives even more information like how much time they spent reading the passage, how much time they averaged on a single question, which tests they took, what they scored percentage wise on it, and how many wrong questions were factual and how many wrong were inferential. So much more helpful information than just the single score you first get. But, like me you may have difficulty finding this test. There are probably tutorial videos available on the site; I've never watched them. So here are step by step pictures:

(Scroll down to find:)

The new representative also told me some about how the program works. When Early Bird first took the DORA he was 4-almost-5. When I entered in his information I put him as a 1st grader because he was reading at a higher than beginning level and I didn't want to bore him with having to start at the very beginning. But the program is much smarter than I gave it credit and it not only takes into account correct answers but also the speed at which the answers are coming in, and will skip more than one grade to find the right level if necessary, without taking forever and completely boring your child. Well done, programmers!

Getting feedback like this and having such a great conversation with a company that clearly cares about it's costumers and not just taking their money has taken away any reservations I had before. I will most definitely be giving the DORA to the boys next year.

None of this post was compensated in any way by Let's Go Learn. All opinions are my own.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The cool people at Let's Go Learn gave me a certificate for two DORAs and two ADAMs to give away to one of my readers! Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win! (Again, still not being compensated for this, though I am very excited to do my very first giveaway.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. So, I tried to post from my phone last night, but google apparently ate the comment. XD

    I'm so glad you've had the chance to get this straightened out, I know how stressful it was. I've been debating Mad Natter's DORA this year - do I want to test him now, or do I want to test him after we've straightened out his meds, or would the better idea be to test him once now, and again in a month or so when we've gotten everything straightened out and then can see the difference the medication makes? The things you try to plan around when you're homeschooling, right?

    I think I'm leaning toward option three - it's most likely to give me the most information - the first test versus last year's unmedicated test, the second test versus the same year's unmedicated, telling me first how much progress has been made since last year under similar conditions, and the second giving me "real" results - what he can do when his chemistry isn't getting in his way. I suppose mostly I just have to think about it, sort it out, and sell Skeeve on the idea - he understands why one assessment, but two? *snicker* He's not, and never has been, a teacher. XD


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