First, the distinction between stair stepping of difficulty and equal difficulty as it pertains to reading measures needs to be made. The measures are individual tests. Tests within a given skill set (reading comprehension, letter names, oral reading fluency, etc.) are of equal difficulty. The stair-stepping of difficulty comes in the progression of skill set administration. So the easiest skill sets are the letter names and letter sounds. Moving up in difficulty are word fluency, oral reading fluency and the most difficult, reading comprehension.
Here is some information about our measures:
Our reading measures are grouped by skill sets. Each skill set progresses in difficulty with Phoneme Segmenting, Letter Names, and Letter Sounds being the easiest, Word Reading Fluency, Passage Reading Fluency being the more difficult, and Proficient Reading being the hardest to complete. So if you have a student who is performing below their grade level, you can give them measures that are for a lower grade. If they are unable to complete the Proficient Reading assessment, don’t administer it. The idea is to find the correct grade and skillsets the student can do, build on them, and then move up to a higher grade and skillset until the student (if possible) is able to perform at their grade level. If their IEP states they need any accommodations for any of the testing, be sure to implement them.
All our measures are designed to be appropriate for students in the middle of the year at their particular grade level. Thus, the measures may seem too difficult for students taking tests at the beginning of the school year. As the year progresses, that will level out for students and you should see progress in their knowledge and skill base.
Each measure in a given skill set (skill sets are: Letter Names, Phoneme Segmenting, Letter Sounds, Word Reading Fluency, Passage Reading Fluency, Proficient Reading, and each of the three math sections) are designed to be of equivalent difficulty. Therefore, if a student does poorly on one test, and you then provide targeted instruction to help them improve their skills, you can have them take a different form of the same test type and use that score to identify improvement.
The first number of a measure indicates the grade level. The second number is an arbitrary number and indicates nothing more than a way to distinguish one measure from another. The numbering of the assessments does not represent the order in which to administer them or their degree of difficulty, it is just a way to keep track of the tests.