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Second-grade student Anna nervously glances at her teacher and asks, "Are you going to be timing me?" Her teacher pulls out a worn stopwatch and says, "Focus on reading each word correctly--and we will see how your fluency improves from last time." Just as she would for a race, Anna envisions her foot on the starting line--and she feels a sense of fear creep up her leg and reach her forehead as she examines the title of the reading passage. Sweat moistens her palms, and her heart pounds to a triple beat. Her teacher announces, "On your mark, get set ... GO!" Anna recites in her head. She concentrates on pronouncing each word correctly as fast as she can, while her teacher frantically records which words Anna missed. As the stopwatch loudly buzzes--indicating the end of the reading race--both Anna and her teacher let out a slow sigh of relief. Anna waits with trepidation as her teacher calculates her fluency rate, and completes a paper graph--using multicolored markers--to indicate Anna's progress. Struggling readers may regularly worry about reading at an appropriate speed and intonation (Marcell, 2007). Fluency is a "hot" topic according to Jack Cassidy's annual reading survey published in Reading Today, in which he interviews various literacy experts throughout the United States on the hot and not-so-hot reading topics (2008). Fluency measures are regularly used throughout the United States, as are other assessment procedures, to ensure that students are reading at grade level by the 3rd grade. The pressure remains high to achieve No Child Left Behind mandates--and teachers and students alike feel a sense of anxiety to note growth on these ongoing assessments. This column will not examine No Child Left Behind, nor debate the politics of high-stakes assessment. Instead, this column will discuss how Palm Pilots are used to administer and analyze an informal reading inventory. Assessment of student progress radically changed with the introduction of the Palm Pilot.

Professional & Technical
December 22
Association for Childhood Education International
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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