Benchmarks

There are no changes to benchmarks for 2018-19.

The University of Virginia ensures that PALS assessments and benchmarks remain current through ongoing research and data analysis.  Benchmarks were last updated in Fall 2016 and will continue to be updated as needed.

Benchmarks and Mid-Year Ranges Charts

Visit the Instructional Resources links in your PALS Online account to view the PALS benchmarks, mid-year ranges, and top scores for PALS-K, PALS Plus, and PALS español assessments, as well as the PreK Spring Developmental Ranges for PALS-PreK.

(There are no mid-year ranges currently for PALS español.  See below for information about PALS-PreK Spring Developmental Ranges.)

A Note About PALS-PreK Spring Developmental Ranges

Children arrive at preschool with varying levels of exposure to books, language, the alphabet, and word play. Many children who begin their preschool year not recognizing any letters soon catch up once they begin sharing this exposure to literacy instruction. Others may, for whatever reason, continue to lag behind even at the end of the preschool or kindergarten year.

The screening purpose of PALS is to catch those students who are not displaying these literacy skills even after given instruction. PreK is too early to identify a student as “at-risk” for reading difficulties. P

ALS PreK should be used to learn what students currently know and what they are ready to learn next, and can also be used to identify strengths and needs in the PreK program curriculum, but it is not a screening tool. No specific benchmarks are given for PALS-PreK; rather, PALS provides PreK Spring Developmental Ranges that reflect expectations for the spring of the 4-year-old year.

Frequently Asked Questions about PALS Benchmarks

The PALS benchmarks seem really low. Why?

PALS benchmarks are constructed for the screening (interim) purpose of PALS – to identify students who are at-risk for having difficulty learning to read, or who have a significant reading deficiency. The benchmarks are sufficiently low to prevent over-identification of students. The benchmarks are not randomly selected numbers; rather, they were derived from many years of data collection and a research-based profile of students who tend to struggle with reading development in the absence of intervention.

If a student reaches the Summed Score benchmark, does that mean s/he is on grade level?

Meeting PALS benchmarks, either the Summed Score or individual task benchmarks, does not guarantee a student will grow and be successful in reading. It does not mean the student is “on grade level” or will be at grade level by the end of the school year. It just means the student has the basic skills s/he needs at that point to continue learning to read if the student is provided with developmentally-appropriate literacy instruction in the classroom.

To establish whether a student is performing on grade level, look at Concept of Word scores (kindergarten), Instructional Oral Reading Levels (grades 1-8) and Spelling Feature Scores (grades 1-8).

All of my students reached the fall benchmarks on all tasks. Does that mean I don’t need to do any intervention or further assessment?

Students who meet the benchmarks may not need remedial intervention, but still need to receive literacy instruction that is targeted to meet their needs and strengths in each reading skill area in order to grow as readers.  In addition to screening information, PALS provides diagnostic information that can be used for progress monitoring and updating instruction for all students throughout the year.

Furthermore, assessing at mid-year and spring continues to be important, even when students met benchmarks in the fall. Note that benchmarks increase in the spring, and represent minimum competency, not grade-level performance. Pay particular attention to “borderline” students (those who score at or just slightly above the benchmark) to ensure they don’t begin to struggle, fall behind, and later possibly end up identified and needing additional instruction (intervention).

Look further at specific task scores and student responses to evaluate whether a student is struggling with specific skills, and to target reading instruction accordingly. It is advisable to administer the whole assessment again in the next window, especially with these students.

Literacy skills are connected; they are not discrete isolated skills that have no impact on the development of the other skills. Note that the last thing a teacher would want to see is a student who meets the benchmark now (indicating they are ready to learn and move forward) but then later does not meet the benchmark because s/he did not receive instruction targeted to her/his needs and strengths.