I am dismayed!!   I have received numerous emails and calls about the fact that RAZ has dropped its Benchmark Books above the first grade. In addition, although the titles are the same for most of the Benchmark Books for Kindergarten and Grade One (aa-J), some of the text and words have changed within the book.  They also made a multiple choice test to go along with these books from J downward in place of the open ended questions they used to ask.  

When comparing the old versions of the tests to the new versions, instead of Text Based, Inference and Critical Response questions, the questions are labeled Main Idea, Vocabulary, Sequence etc.  Unless you examine the text against the questions and responses by using Question Answer Relationships, you will not know if they require literal or inferential thinking.  When I did so for two levels, there was no rhyme or reason on that basis. One test had 5 literal questions (4 Right There and 1 Think and Search), while another had 4 Inferential questions (Author and You) and 1 literal question (Right There).  So, it gives us no basis for comparison on comprehension from level to level as it does not control for literal versus inferential thinking.  

I encourage you to write or call with your complaints. My email to them, and their response, is below.  Harwich teachers called RAZ and their response was the same. 

My email to RAZ:

“The point that I would like to make is that book length benchmarks such as yours are important to find out how students can locate and synthesize information across authentic book length texts.  In special needs, students can often do fine with a short passage but fail a book length selection, like a chapter in a textbook, because of working memory or organizational issues. If we don’t catch it, we end up saying they can read at a much higher level than they do and stop services.  This is an important aspect of making sure we are thoroughly teaching disabled students.  

Many people have contacted me to ask what to do now?  I have told them I am uncertain but am keeping the older versions for now.

For example, I recently tested a ten year old whom teachers said could read but because of language issues could not comprehend what he read. When I tested him with the Land and Water new version test, he got all five questions right.  But when I added in the inferential and the critical response from the original version, he could not do them at all. Those were the only two higher order questions since the new 5 multiple choice ones you now offer were all literal.  

It is also misleading to say Main Idea alone since in some cases, like this, it is stated in the book.  Teachers assume Main Idea is a higher order skill. So, I am in a huge quandary as to what to do.

For now, I am telling people to consider the Qualitative Reading Inventory 6th edition Inference Diagnostic passages for grades 4-HS as I have found these to be excellent at ferreting out these higher order thinking issues.  

But that leaves me with a big gap at second and third grade where a child’s cognitive understanding moves toward a more mature stage of cognitive understanding ala Piaget.  And as I said, many students with language issues do not reach this level of understanding unless it is identified and remediated developmentally. I have had a lot of success training teachers how to get students over this second to third grade developmental hurdle. But only your test identified it was there for us to address and remediate.”

Response from RAZ:

“Thank you so much for taking the time to give us your valuable feedback. We replaced the benchmark books with passages a couple of months ago based on customers indicating they did not need book-long texts to benchmark students, but instead preferred shorter passages. Regarding the assessment questions, we changed the format from short answer to multiple choice so that student responses can be auto-graded and provide teachers with information on performance with specific comprehension skills. I will investigate further to get more details regarding the level of the questions across the benchmark passages. 

We appreciate you bringing this matter up to our attention and will let you know of the resolution.”

No More RAZ Benchmark Books Beyond First Grade! WHAT???