Early Years Reading


At the direction of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), we have developed recommendations for early years (PreK-2nd grade) reading assessments. The goal of these recommendations is to provide researchers, including potential IES grantees, with a robust list of high quality assessment tools. These recommended instruments can be administered in both research and educational evaluation settings in order to encourage the use of common measures. This memo not only highlights specific early reading assessments, but also provides a transparent summary of the steps taken to curate our full list of recommended assessments.

Collection Process

Early reading tests (those including PK – 2) were collected by reviewing publisher websites, soliciting expert recommendations, and conducting ERIC searches (i.e., reviewing the assessment/survey filters in ERIC). The following protocol was used during our collection process:

  • We included only formal assessments that could be administered by a researcher or in collaboration with schools/districts for the purpose of a large-scale program evaluation.
  • We did not focus on tests designed solely to be used by teachers or clinicians for individual diagnostics.
  • We also did not include assessments that are soon to be discontinued (e.g., easyCBM).
  • Where multiple editions of a test were available, we included the newest edition.

The entire coding process was undertaken by one researcher on our team for purposes of consistency. Table 1 describes each variable in the attached spreadsheet.


While potential grantees should consider the utility of each assessment for their specific research design and purpose, we recommend special consideration of the following assessments. For comprehensive assessments of reading, we recommend the DIBELS-8th edition, the ECLS-K:2011 Reading Tests (see spreadsheet for access information), or the WRMT-III. The GRADE is an older test, but is also a strong option for a comprehensive assessment of reading for use in research. While the reliability of some of the subtests are on the lower end, the GMRT-4 could also be considered. If focused only in pre-K, the TOPEL is another strong option. If potential grantees are studying both reading and math, they might select an assessment suite that includes both: the Iowa Assessments (Forms E and F) and the SAT10 are both trusted options, among others such as the aimswebPlus, Woodcock-Johnson IV, WIAT-4, and WRAT5. Those researchers focused only on word reading efficiency could consider TOWRE-2. Finally, if receptive vocabulary is the focus, the Peabody Picture PPVT-5 is an excellent option.

Table 1

Spreadsheet Variables and Variable Descriptions

Variable Description
External Link Link to the publisher website, where the instrument can be purchased. Along with the technical reference (below), information used for coding was found here.
Grade Range Range of grades that the test is appropriate for, based on information from the publisher
Early Grades Content Test content for early grades (PK-2) reported by publisher
Assessment Type General information about the test
Early Grades Reliability Reliability reported for early grades (PK-2)
Validity evidence? Evidence of criterion and/or construct validity? Yes/No
Evidence of fairness? Issues of fairness/bias taken into consideration (e.g., differential item functioning or bias reviewers)? Yes/No
Nationally representative norms? Yes/No
Technical Reference Reference used for coding instruments, in addition to the External Link
Used in program evaluation research? Describes the extent that the test has been used in research studying the effects of a policy/program/intervention. To locate published empirical studies, we first scanned the publisher website. If unavailable, we performed a search of the test name in ERIC and Google Scholar.
Time Reported administration time or number of items
Cost Pricing information
Notes Additional information