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What is the DRA?

The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) is a standardized reading assessment that determines a student’s reading comprehension. DRA results will indicate if your child is below, at, or above grade-level reading.


 

Assessments are delivered to each student by teachers (or reading interventionists/specialists). The test is given by asking the student to read an excerpt of the text and then summarizing what they have learned to the examiner.

As students answer the questions, the text and questions will increase in difficulty.

Based on the number of questions the student answers correctly, a DRA level will be determined.

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The DRA is given to all students from 1st grade to 3rd grade in September and in May. These results measure individual and class-wide growth throughout the year.

The DRA assessment is testing children for the following things:


 

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is a fancy way of saying rhyming and alliteration. It also includes segmentation and general phonemic awareness. These are the steps that your child employs to understand how letters and word sounds translate to words.

When your child makes the “ch-, ch-, ch-“ sound to sound out the word “check,” they are strengthening their phonemic awareness.

Alphabetic Principle/Phonics

Just like the name, this section tests your child on their knowledge of the alphabet. Of course, questions are not as simple as, “What letter is this?”.

This test section will assess things like identifying letters, reading words from a list, spelling, decoding, and more.

Fluency

This section of the assessment will observe your child’s reading flow. If they are choppy or smooth, the DRA will assess their fluency to determine if they can understand the text.

All of these sections will pay special attention to vocabulary, comprehension, and engagement to determine your child’s grade level understanding in reading.

Why is the DRA Necessary?

Why is the DRA Necessary
 

Teachers use these results to form reading groups, select appropriate level texts for students, and identify areas of weakness that should be given extra attention during class time.

The DRA is a standardized test, which means that all students have a fair and equal shot at demonstrating understanding. Schools and teachers like standardized assessments, because they believe the data is reliable and quality.

At the end of the year, when students retake the DRA, they have the September baseline results to measure growth.

Teachers can use these results to identify next steps for students. These next steps could include more challenging courses (or advanced reading groups) or indicate a need for additional services.

Whatever the result, you will have data that will illustrate your child’s strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to reading comprehension.

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What Do Your Child’s DRA Scores Mean?

There is a score continuum that serves to measure a student’s reading comprehension.


 

At the beginning of 1st grade, your child should be around a level 3. By the end of 3rd grade, your child is likely to be around level 38.

Below is a summary of each benchmark. When your child has mastered some (or all) of these standards, then they will move into the next category.

Emergent Readers

Your child:

  • Knows how to read three or more lines of text from left to right
  • Matches verbal reciting to text-on-page
  • Can recall most sounds and names of letters
  • Uses in-text clues (like pictures) to determine what the text is saying
  • Can occasionally retell stories, including essential details like characters or plot
  • Satisfies the requirements for levels A-2

Early Readers

Your child:

  • enjoys selecting new texts with the help of a teacher, parent, or librarian
  • Enjoys reading favorite stories independently
  • Can make connections between prereading activities (like previewing pictures) and the actual story
  • Knows the names and sounds of all letters
  • Pauses at challenging to read words and begins the process of problem-solving to find a solution
  • Detects and self-corrects any mistakes while reading
  • Links events in stories to their personal life
  • Satisfies DRA levels 3-10

Transitional Readers

Your child:

  • Can independently select appropriately challenging texts
  • Reads silently and enjoys longer stories
  • Can preread independently and uses their knowledge to make predictions about the text
  • Begins to read with expression and pays attention to punctuation
  • Can identify important information such as main ideas, characterization, setting, events, and literal interpretation
  • Can make meaningful connections between the text and themselves as well as the media and outside world
  • Satisfies DRA levels 12-24

Extending Readers

Your child:

  • Reads independently
  • Can read a single story over an extended amount of time and tracks important details
  • Enjoys discovering new genres
  • Reads aloud smoothly with particular attention paid to punctuation and fluency
  • Links stories to other literature that they have read
  • Satisfies DRA levels 28-44

How to Improve Your Child’s DRA Scores


 

The ultimate goal of the DRA test is not to improve the test scores, but instead to enhance your child’s reading comprehension.

Unlike a high-stakes test such as the ACT, the DRA is merely a measurement resource to make sure that your child is not falling behind.

It is easy to get wrapped up in numbers, especially if your child is behind. Use their DRA scores as a benchmark for improvement and encourage your child in between testing periods with these supports at home.

The first thing you can do to help your child increase their reading comprehension is to provide them with books that align with their DRA level.

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If your child has found a book that they want to read, you can always try Googling the title + “DRA Level” to see if it’s close to your child’s grade level.  Your results will most likely look like this on the Google results page.

  Don’t Let The  Pigeon  Drive the Bus!
  Guided Reading Level                                              1
  Lexile® Measure                                                        280L
  DRA Level                                                                    16

 

Additionally, ArgoPrep has supported thousands of happy parents and students in the journey to becoming stronger readers.

With over 20 weeks of Common Core aligned practice, ArgoPrep workbooks will give your child the practice that will drive results.

Additionally, all ArgoPrep workbooks are written with the student in mind, which means they will have fun while improving their reading comprehension.

Additional Resources


 

There are many additional resources online to help you navigate DRA levels for your child. Here are a few of the more popular platforms for finding high-quality texts:

: Lexile scores are another benchmark assessment, and you can easily find Lexile scores of millions of books available. If you are having a hard time finding a book’s DRA level, try looking up its Lexile score.

: Create book lists easily with Reading Rocket’s book finder, which can be filtered by genre, age, reading level, and more.

Conclusion

If I choose a reading topic that is outside of my comfort zone (for instance, organic Chemistry), I will stumble over words, phrases, and examples. When I finish reading, I realize I have not understood any of it, because I’ve been just trying to formulate the words enough to say them in my head while reading.

When I see a student who is struggling, I know that they can’t enjoy the process of reading, because they are just trying to understand the words in front of them.

In both of these examples, my students and I must sacrifice reading comprehension because of the struggle of basic understanding.

The DRA should not be considered a snapshot of a student’s overall performance. Instead, it is just a tool to help teachers and parents identify areas for growth and areas of weakness.

By identifying a student’s DRA level, you will be able to provide appropriately challenging texts to help students improve their reading comprehension and grow into lifelong readers.

With the help of the DRA results and ArgoPrep, your child is well on their way to becoming a voracious reader!

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