Review by Monica Encarnacion, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2017

ReadTheory

Useful, adaptive tool for assessing, tracking reading ability

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • College & Career Prep

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (4 Reviews)

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Pros: Reports provide great data for conferencing, and progress tracking helps get students test-ready.

Cons: There's no student choice of texts, and while it mimics standardized testing, that's also a drawback for engagement.

Bottom Line: It's very utilitarian, but what it does it does well: getting students test-ready by effectively assessing and tracking reading ability.

ReadTheory is self-contained, and it's biggest use case is as a time-saving tool that keeps teachers from having to individually assess students' reading levels one by one. What's particularly nice is that these periodic assessments don't necessarily need to take place in the classroom. 

Beyond the assessments, teachers may find it helpful to plan conferencing conversations and future targeted instruction around the valuable data provided in ReadTheory's progress reports. These reports contain tons of data for analysis: pre-test averages, program averages, grade-level progression, Lexile level progression, mastery of ELA Common Core standards, quiz history, and how a student's reading level has fluctuated with each quiz. Unfortunately, lessons aren't provided on ReadTheory, but teachers can check out an associated site for those materials. ReadTheory does provide a limited list of free printables, great for RTI or other reading interventions.

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ReadTheory is a K-12 online reading comprehension program that assesses reading ability and builds reading comprehension by providing texts for students to read at a "just right" level. Over 1,000 informational and narrative passages are leveled by grade and Lexile level. ReadTheory's algorithm senses student performance and is able to adapt to fit reading needs. As students read and answer quiz questions, ReadTheory presents passages (either more complex or less) that aim to find and establish the right level for each student. While web-based, it's usable on both desktop and mobile devices so students can access their accounts wherever they are.

To begin, teachers create a free account, then create a new class (which can support a max of 35 student accounts). Students log in (providing their teacher's email so they can be added to the class) and are prompted to begin their independent reading pre-test. This initial reading assessment takes about 20 minutes to complete and includes vocabulary questions as well as explicit and implicit reading comprehension questions related to several reading passages. This pre-test establishes a student's initial reading level and reading comprehension abilities. Teachers monitor progress on the Progress Page, which shows data based on reading level progression as well as performance on each of the ELA Common Core-aligned reading comprehension question types. Teachers should be wary of invasive "Download Now" buttons that appear on ReadTheory which, if clicked, take students away from the ReadTheory website and can prompt them to download software such as MacKeeper.

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ReadTheory combats discouraged and frustrated readers by helping teachers ensure students are reading at or close to their independent reading level. While it's not a completely standalone reading program, the way it makes differentiation easier for a classroom of students is genuinely useful and time-saving, especially given the solid data teachers get on each student. At the same time, ReadTheory's plug-and-play-style assessment and text-leveling can feel limiting: Neither teachers nor students can adjust levels or make text selections to best fit students' abilities and interests. There is, however, the option to choose a larger text size, and students can work at their own pace. Moreover, while some quiz questions are challenging, students receive feedback including explanations for any wrong answers. The passages and questions provided by ReadTheory are similar to those students may encounter on standardized tests, which makes this a particularly great resource for test prep.

While the design of the tool and its test-like format aren't the most engaging way to read, students are encouraged to read via Knowledge Points, which they receive for answering questions correctly, answering challenge questions, and completing written responses questions that are then graded by their teacher. Some students will enjoy challenging themselves to gain more Knowledge Points and track their progress.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

It's not designed to hook students; students log in and get presented with quizzes and texts. Students can track progress but they can't choose texts.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The Common Core-aligned leveled texts build comprehension. The quizzes assess and adjust passages to target student need. The test-like format doesn't support student choice or creativity, however.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The directions are easy to follow, and students see correct answers and explanations when they answer incorrectly. The teacher dashboard provides useful reports but limited integrated instructional support.


Common Sense Reviewer
Monica Encarnacion School support staff

Teacher Reviews

(See all 4 reviews) (4 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Bronia W. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Burlingame Intermediate School
Burlingame, CA
Easy assessment of students' reading levels

My biggest issue is that it is difficult to incorporate this tool with other areas of the curriculum. When class time is limited, it's a little disjointed to stop to use this tool.

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