PEARL – A Universal Kindergarten Screener for Decoding and Language


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Accurately identify future decoding and comprehension difficulty in minutes! 


What is included in the PEARL Screener: 

  • PEARL Screener Examiner's Manual

  • PEARL Screener Stimulus Book (1 Stimulus book included) Additional multi-user options available 

  • PEARL Screener Protocols (25 included) Additional protocols available to purchase 

  • PEARL Carrying Bag


Highlights of the PEARL Screener

  • Only takes 5-15 minutes to administer (in majority of cases)

  • Accurately predicts future decoding and comprehension difficulty with 80% (or higher) sensitivity and specificity

  • Reduces cultural and linguistic bias with 80% (or higher) sensitivity and specificity

  • Informs present level of decoding and academically related language ability

  • The PEARL can be administered by anyone who can read and understand the test manual and has knowledge of standardized assessment procedures

An introduction to the PEARL

Predictive Early Assessment of Reading and Language (PEARL) Screener employs an innovative assessment approach referred to as dynamic assessment. Through dynamic assessment, the PEARL measures the construct of modifiability (the ability to learn something new) in the domains of decoding and literate (academic) language production and comprehension. In a single testing session (often under 10 minutes), examiners assess gains from pretest to posttest as well as the student’s response to quality teaching. The effects of teaching on a student’s decoding and language can be observed and measured, and the results reveal how easy or difficult it will likely be for a student to learn those skills. As a result, an estimation of a student’s need for intervention can be made quickly, without needing to monitor response to teaching over months or years. Dynamic assessment has shown promise for excellent prediction. When early identification is possible, earlier intervention and prevention are also possible. 

The five specific purposes of the PEARL Screener:

  1. Accurately predicts future decoding and comprehension difficulty. Sensitivity and specificity analysis of the PEARL across over 1000 students indicates that the Decoding and Language subtests yield sensitivity and specificity at or above 80%, and that these results can be obtained after a very brief screening process. 

  2. Reduces bias of the information used to predict future reading or language difficulty. Across culturally and linguistically diverse students (including Hispanic students, Native American students, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds), the PEARL yielded sensitivity and specificity at or above 80%, indicating limited assessment bias and excellent predictive validity for a diverse group of students. 

  3. Informs present level of performance of decoding and academically related language ability.  Results of the PEARL provide information on a student’s current ability to decode, and understand and use complex language.  

  4. Helps ascertain a student’s zone of proximal development and specific deficits and strengths related to decoding and language.  Results of the PEARL help an interventionist understand how much support a student might need to successfully decode and understand and use complex language, and identify which specific intervention goals would be most appropriate for an individual student. 

  5. Identifies participants in research that focuses on students’ reading or language development.  The results of the PEARL help researchers characterize their participants’ language and reading abilities. The PEARL provides a considerable amount of valid and reliable information by using a dynamic assessment process. This information can be of significant use to researchers.

The PEARL Screener includes two subtests. Subtest 1 is the Dynamic Assessment of Decoding, and Subtest 2 is the Dynamic Assessment of Language. The PEARL Screener (Subtests 1 and 2 administered together) assesses critical skills within the decoding and language domains and is designed to be a universal screener for all incoming kindergarten students. Subtests 1 and 2 can also be administered in combination or separately with a wider range of students (e.g., Pre-K through 1st grade) for a variety of purposes. In fact, the PEARL subtests may be useful for any age student depending on individual needs and purpose(s) of assessment. However, this does not mean that the PEARL is appropriate for all students of any age. Users should use clinical judgment about the appropriateness of the subtests for individual students and purposes.

The Dynamic Assessment of Decoding (Subtest 1) utilizes nonsense words and a phonological analysis (sounding out) strategy to determine how responsive students are to the teaching of decoding skills. The format follows a simple Pretest – Teaching – Posttest sequence and data are collected at each step, including students’ responsiveness to teaching.

The Dynamic Assessment of Language (Subtest 2) also utilizes a Pretest – Teaching – Posttest sequence. The Pretest and Teaching phase use the same story, while the Posttest uses a novel story that is parallel to the first story in terms of story grammar elements and language complexity. Students’ narratives are scored in real-time at each Pretest and Posttest phase and their responsiveness to teaching is recorded immediately after the Teaching phase. 

Examiner Qualifications

The PEARL can be administered by anyone who can read and understand the test manual and has knowledge of standardized assessment procedures. This includes, but is not limited to, teachers, instructional aides, school psychologists, speech-language pathologists, school counselors, and reading specialists. 


Reliability of the PEARL Screener:

  • Estimates of the PEARL’s overall reliability, relative to several different methods used to measure reliability (inter- and intra-rater reliability, fidelity of test administration, parallel forms reliability, and internal consistency reliability) strongly suggest that the PEARL has minimal test error and that examiners can have confidence in its results.

  • Our point-by-point inter- and intra-rater analyses for the Decoding and Language subtests of the PEARL have yielded agreements at or above 90% across multiple examiners with varying degrees of education and experience in administering and scoring standardized tests.

  • Fidelity of administration has consistently been at or above 95% for both subtests.

  • There is very strong evidence to suggest that the pretest and posttest of the Decoding subtest are parallel, with correlation coefficients well above .90. 

  • The pretest and posttest of the Language subtest of the PEARL have yielded strong correlation coefficients at or above .70 across a large number of diverse students.

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