PreK-2 Reading Present Levels & Assessments

Writing a strong IEP begins with strong assessments and knowing what your student CAN do in each subject. This page walks through sample present levels (PLOPs or PLAAFPs) for students working at an early elementary level in reading and assessments you can use to write even better present levels for your own students!

Present Levels

The goal of a Present Level for any student is to tell about what that student can do. A PLOP that says, "Juan can read one work of a fifth-grade book per minute," tells you nothing about where Juan is at academically and nothing about what goals to set for the student. After having read far, far too many present levels that sound like that, I figured it would make sense to share what I think a strong PLOP might sound like. The ones below are very, very imperfect-- but they each give you concrete information about what the imaginary student can do-- information that you could use to come up with actually individualized goals.

Deena is decoding at a late Kindergarten level (DRA 2 97%, DRA 3 below 85% accuracy). She can read real and nonsense one syllable CVC words with 67% accuracy. She knows 12 of the 40 Dolch Pre-Primer words. She knew 24 upper case letters, 23 lower case letters, and 24 letter sounds. In groups however, she is consistently decoding CVC words and reading decodable books of CVC words with few mistakes. She also routinely reads more sight words in group than she did on the assessment. Overall in group, she is beginning to consistently apply her phonics skills to reading and to understand how to read. She struggles with independently reading texts and fatigues after five minutes of independent reading. If she has a friend to work with, her attention span increases by a minute or two.

Deena’s comprehension continues to be significantly higher than her decoding. When she was read a mid-first grade text, she was able to give a fairly complete retell. She switched a character from an elf to a little doll but other than that her retell had all of the main events of the story in order. She has strong phonemic awareness. She can easily tell you multiple words that rhyme with a given word and can tell what sounds words begin and end with.

Marco is decoding at an early first grade level. In class, he is reading at an instructional F level and an independent E level (DRA 6 and4). On an assessment, he was instructional on DRA 4 text. He is good at sounding out words and can sound out 67% of real and nonsense one syllable CVC words. He needs support to sounds out words with digraphs, blends, and longer CVC words.

Marco knows all of his lower case names and letter sounds. He knew all of his upper case letters except for the J. He knows 31 of the Dolch Pre-Primer words and 25 of the 52 Dolch Primer words.

Marco is proficient at recognizing rhyming words and identifying the initial sound in words. He needs support with identifying the ending sound in words and often will just restate the beginning sound when asked what sound a word ends with. He has excellent concepts about print and is able to independently read a book at his level.

Marco strongly benefits from explicit teaching of texts and vocabulary in class. When asked about a text that his class has discussed, he is able to state five or more facts from the story in complete sentences like "the baby elephant gets milk from its mom." When asked to give a retell of the DRA 4 story that he had read, he was able to tell the big ideas of the story, "The boy not find his his and her mom not… the mom is crawling around and the boy has his hat," but struggled more with telling details from the story. His comprehension is better of stories that are read to him. He can give a good prediction for a story, tell where, who, and what is happening in a story. He can answer basic why questions about a story, tell his favorite part, identify the problem, and give a simple retell. He is able to make connections to the text as well. In classroom discussions, he participates when called on and is able to discuss the text at a similar to level to his classmates.

Assessments & Baselines

One of the most foundational skills for reading is the hearing and manipulation of sounds in words. This is a skill built through word play like rhyming and activities where students add or subtract sounds in a word- which are great group activities for students who need support with phonemic awareness.

  • This is a purely oral assessment for students. You ask questions like what sound they hear at the beginning, middle, and end of words.
  • Elkonin boxes have gone in and out of popularity, but are also a good way to assess phonemic awareness as are rhyming activities. The challenge is to systemize the assessments so you get something you can write up on an IEP.

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

  • This assessment is most useful for students who are weak decoders– oral assessments are time consuming so save this for your students who are still working on letter sounds or decoding CVC words.
  • It can also be helpful for students who are really struggling with encoding sounds– sometimes spelling challenges reflect a student’s difficult hearing all of the sounds in the word, which this can catch.

Sanchez can identify the beginning sound in a word with 80% accuracy, tell when two words rhyme with 60% accuracy, and identify the end sound in a word with 20% accuracy.

Sight words are words that students are supposed to just know– words that they are supposed to get without sounding them out. Knowing what sight words students  know can help shape both IEP goals and what you focus on during reading interventions. 

  • There are many different lists of sight words from STAR to Dolch. If your school has one that you are already using, great! Use that! Don’t make more work for yourself 🙂 
  • You want to have some sort of a sight word list for students to read off of and a recording sheet to note down which ones they can done or not do. Most lists have levels and for new readers, you probably want to start with the easiest of the lists. 

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

Only give the Primer Dolch assessment if they have gotten at least 10 right on the Pre-Primer part. If you notice that they missed a lot of words on the test that they can read with you in group, include that in the write up! Also, in the meeting go over which sight words the student knows and doesn’t– and give the parents a pack of sight words cards! Sight words are easy for families to work on at home– but families need to know how to use them and which words their child should be working on.

Joe knows 16 of the 40 Dolch PrePrimer words and 5 of the 52 Dolch Primer words.

Letter names and sounds are one of the most fundamental (and time consuming!) of assessments for emerging readers. You need to know which upper case and lower case letters a student knows and which letter sounds they know.

  • Print out two copies of a mixed up lower case and a mixed up upper case alphabet. Have the student use one and use the other to record what the student knows.
  • Use whichever case (lower or upper) the student knows more of to ask them about letter sounds. For many students, this is lower case.

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

  • Do the upper and lower case letter names first. Score them. Test letter sounds on which ever alphabet– upper or lower case– the student did better on.
  • Write down what sound they do say– it is really helpful to know if they say m for n or p for q. This can inform both what you work on and also, at times, give insights into what is challenging for the student (is it discriminating between the sounds of close letters? are letters getting flipped for them when they look at them?).

Tanea knows 22 upper and lower case letters and 21 letter sounds. 

You can also include more detail such as: While she can identify upper case Bs and Ds, she often confuses the lower cases of those letters. NB: You already gave numbers on the letters and letter sounds– after that it is okay to include your observations even if you don’t have exact numbers or percentages for them.

What types of words can a student sound out? Can they sound out basic CVC words like cat? What about words with other consonant patterns? What should you be focusing on in phonics work with the student?

  • Typically, this is tested on words out of context. You can take notes during reading group on what types of words a student is decoding or needing support with, but a list is helpful. 
  • The list of words should include a mix of real and nonsense words so you can rule out memorization– a  lot of students might just know the word cat for example.

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

  • Don’t torture a student or yourself. Stop the assessment when a student is getting none right. You want to be able to report out on what a student can do, not what they can’t do!

Student 1:

Ji can read CVC words with 50% accuracy. He can read words with digraphs with under 10% accuracy and needs teacher support to read words with other letter patterns.

Student 2:

Janna is proficient at reading CVC words as well as words with consonant digraphs, blends, and long vowels. She can read words with “r” controlled vowels with 67% accuracy and words with vowel diphthongs with 53% accuracy.

You can also add  more detail such as: Ji knows the “th” sound and can read short vowel words that start with “th”. If you have a student with limited literacy skills, add detail! Don’t present parents with a report that lists their child’s failures– find the successes to celebrate!

For students who are emerging readers, it doesn’t make sense to assess them on what they understand of what they read. Instead, assess emerging readers on what they understand of a text you read to them. I recommend finding one book to use across students that has pictures and a linear plot with clearly identifiable characters, setting, and problem. The book also needs to be short enough that you can get through it during an assessment– basically you want the shortest book you can find that has a meaningful plot.

  • Develop or find a comprehension rubric that lets you check off what a student can do (identify the main character? make a prediction? say what happened first?). 
  • You can also take notes on this during reading groups IF you are reading to students. Early readers spend so much energy decoding that their comprehension will show as limited even if they understand a story you read them perfectly well.
  • Another option is to have them read a book on Raz-Kids or another read aloud platform and ask them questions BUT for emerging readers the questions need to be oral– you can’t mix in any encoding or decoding and learn how well an emerging reader understands a text.

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

  • Choose a simple picture book that has a story line for this. Something that you can read quickly but has more than just “blue ball…. yellow sun.” Ask them questions as you are reading the story. There is plenty of extra space on the page for you to write comments– the more you write down, the more you will have to write up. If the student does really well on this, make sure you are doing a reading assessment like the DRA or the reading comprehension sheets from Level 2 as a read aloud. Note that you can always read a DRA type story to a student! Students often understand WAY better than they can decode and that is such a powerful thing to be able to tell families.

Student 1:

While being read a simple picture book, Jayna can answer questions about what is happening in a picture  and answer simple why questions about the story.  She can tell a few words about what happened in the story after the teacher is done reading it and give short statements about her favorite part and the problem in the story.  She can also give short answers to  who and how questions while reading. She can choose the “where” of a story from two choices and is not able to answer “when” questions about the story.

Student 2:

After listening to a simple picture book, Raquel was able to tell what happened in the beginning and ending of the story. He was also able to talk about his favorite part in the story and give a simple answer, “he mad” to questions about the problem in the story. While reading the story, he was able to answer questions about what was happening, who was in the story, how they were feeling, and why they were doing something. He was able to choose the “when” of the story from two choices and was able to give a one word statement of the “where” of the story, “farm.”

Before students start to read, they need to understand that books are read left to right, that you start on the left again on a new line of text, that authors write stories, that words are units of meaning in a text. All of these  (and more!) make up Concepts About Print. When you are assessing students who are just learning to read, these concepts are something you want to check on– and often something you can report out as an area of strength even for students who are experiencing challenges learning to read.

  • Hand the student a book upside down. What do they do?
  • Ask them to “read” or flip through the pages of the book. What do they do?
  • Ask them to follow along with their finger as you read. 
  • Ask them to point to the title of the story.
  • Ask them what authors do.
  • Ask them to point to a word on the page.

Need assessment tools or help turning assessments into strong IEPs? The IEP Success Kit has comprehensive (minus a DRA!) reading, writing, and mathematics assessments for annual IEP and progress monitoring reports!

Concepts about print refers to the pre-reading skills that kids need like holding a book right and pointing to words. Remember in the write up to focus on what a student CAN do, not what they can’t do.

Kanida has emerging concepts about print. She can hold a book correctly, flip through the pages in order, and follow a teacher’s finger as they read. She has emerging one to one correspondence for text and can inconsistently point to a specific word on a page and track words on her own as the teacher reads.

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