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Tests & Assessments
Assessing Reading Difficulties and Disabilities

Question 8.

My son is in the second grade and cannot read. How can he get an average score on the Woodcock-Johnson when he can't read?


On the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement IV some subtests, including the Passage Comprehension subtest, include questions that use pictures as clues.

Young children often use the pictures to guess the correct answers and boost their scores.

Good readers do not use pictures and they do not have to guess.

Ask your son's evaluator to test his skills in word identification, word attack (nonsense words), and reading fluency. Ask the evaluator to use a reading comprehension test that does not provide pictures.

Recognizing pictures is not a valid measure of reading comprehension.

Because the subtests on the WJ IV are short, they may not provide sufficient information about what your child knows and is ready to learn. The Passage Comprehension subtest on the WJ IV should be supplemented by reading tests that use longer passages.

On the Gray Oral Reading Tests (GORT-5) some children who read slowly and inaccurately and lack fluency will receive an "average" score in comprehension. This is because many young children use their thinking skills to answer questions on tests when they cannot read the material. For example, when asked this question, "when did Johnny eat breakfast?" most children answer the question correctly without reading the text.

Guessing, using pictures as clues, or using thinking skills cannot compensate for poor word recognition skills.

Your child will not be able to "guess" his way through a biology or history text.

Legal Resource

Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments, 2nd Edition Chapter 6 - Reading Assessments

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition


20 U.S.C.§ 1401(30)

20 U.S.C.§ 1414

20 U.S.C.§ 1414(b)(6)

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition

IDEA Regulations

34 C.F.R. §300.301

34 C.F.R. §300.307

34 C.F.R. §300.309(a)(1)

Additional Resources

CHART: Tests that Measure Reading Skills in Nonverbal Children

CHART: Reading Tests and the Skills They Measure

Reading Tests: What They Measure...and Don't Measure

The Root of the Problem? Rock-Bottom Reading Skills?

New! A Guide to Helping Your Child at Home: Developing Foundational Skills in Reading and Writing

4 Great Reading Definitions in NCLB

Reading at Wrightslaw

State Special Education Regulations and Guidelines. You will find your specific state regulations at your State Department of Education website. Use the Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities to locate your state site.

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