May 16, 2024 · 6 min read

EarlyBird Education, Florida State University Bring Comprehensive Literacy Assessment, Dyslexia Screening Tool

New assessment yields most comprehensive, evidence-driven approach to identifying students at risk for reading struggles, connecting them to tailored instructional resources.

Elementary school students in small group reading instruction working on compound word formation
Elementary school students in small group reading instruction, working on compound word formation. | Photograph courtesy of EarlyBird Education
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Boston-based company EarlyBird Education today announced a collaboration with Florida State University’s Florida Center for Reading Research that brings a new generation of early literacy assessment and dyslexia screening into classrooms across the country.

The EarlyBird platform, already in use in PreK-2nd grade classrooms in 25 states — with third grade launching in 2025 — employs an interactive game to glean specific information about early elementary students’ reading skills. Students complete a computer adaptive assessment that includes screening and follow-up subtests to provide educators immediate information about core reading and language skills. Based on those results, EarlyBird then connects educators to instructional resources to tailor support for individual student needs during their optimal window of brain development.

Now, through a license with FSU, a new Reach Every Reader assessment is available immediately for students and educators within the EarlyBird platform.

“EarlyBird has been working with districts for years to prevent dyslexia through gameplay,” said Carla Small, CEO and Co-founder of EarlyBird Education. “When we created our program — based on the vision and research of neuroscientist Dr. Nadine Gaab — we transformed the assessment experience for children: they play a fun game, while educators get the information they need to refine instruction. Incorporating the Reach Every Reader assessment into EarlyBird allows us to offer school districts a program that’s the perfect balance of ready-to-use and research-informed.”

The new assessment, designed by researchers at FSU as part of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative funded Reach Every Reader project, applies a whole-child and evidence-driven approach to identifying kids at risk for not becoming proficient readers by third grade. Built over six years by leading voices in assessment science, the assessment reflects one of the broadest samplings to date — comparing reading skills across a diverse array of schools and students in Florida, Georgia, Oregon, South Carolina, Massachusetts, and California. The result: scores that minimize biased classification along the lines of sex, race, ethnicity, dual language learner status, and geographic region.

“A limitation many scientists experience is moving our research findings from something we know to something someone can do,” said Dr. Yaacov Petscher, a lead scientist of the Reach Every Reader assessment, an Associate Director at FCRR and Professor of Social Work at FSU. “This partnership with EarlyBird greatly accelerates the research-to-practice pipeline. It means we’re getting these data-supported tools into the hands of teachers, enabling schools to be both responsive to legislative screening mandates and give educators the information they need to tailor instruction.”

Assessments play a critical role in identifying the students most at risk for dyslexia when intervention has the greatest chance of success (grades PreK-3rd). But while 40+ states have adopted laws making dyslexia screening mandatory, many of the most widely used assessments stop short of providing the specific and comprehensive data necessary for educators to support struggling students — something both EarlyBird and Reach Every Reader are working to change.

Elementary school teachers in Queens NY review literacy assessment results provided by EarlyBird early literacy screener
Elementary school teachers in Queens NY review literacy assessment results provided by EarlyBird early literacy screener | Photograph courtesy of EarlyBird Education

“The data we are getting from EarlyBird is making a big difference in our teaching practice,” said Jacqueline Ward-Brew, an Assistant Principal in Far Rockaway, NY. “Before, we could identify students who were struggling to read on the domain level. Now, we can pinpoint specific skills within these domains and personalize instruction for each student with the EarlyBird Next Step resources as an added layer of support.”

“EarlyBird makes the data actionable for school districts. Together, we’re moving beyond broad screening to surfacing information on the malleable skills educators can impact,” said Small. “Combining timely, precise data with instructional resources is a game-changer.”

For parents and caregivers who want to provide supplemental support, there’s also an EarlyBird at Home offering that includes the assessment, a game-based skill-building app, and access to an experienced literacy specialist.

“When we began this research, we knew success meant changing the reality of assessment for real kids and real schools,” said Dr. Hugh Catts, Professor at FSU and a lead scientist researcher on the Reach Every Reader assessment. “This partnership allows us to get these new assessments into the hands of students and teachers immediately, where they can change the trajectory of student lives.”

“At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we care deeply about ensuring research makes its way into classroom settings,” said Sandra Liu Huang, Head of Education and Vice President, Product at CZI. “We’re thrilled that districts across the country will now have access to these rigorously tested assessments and will be able to identify the reading resources more easily and support students’ needs.”

Reach Every Reader is a multi-disciplinary, multipartner effort that includes the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative, Florida State University, and expert practitioners, students, and families across the US committed to developing effective solutions for readers and early literacy.

“The first years of school lay the foundation for everything: without learning to read, kids can’t make that shift to ‘reading to learn’,” said Small. “So time is of the essence. We need to not only find the kids who are struggling earlier; we have to do something about it.”

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About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our communities. Through collaboration, providing resources and building technology, our mission is to help build a more inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

About EarlyBird Education
EarlyBird is an early literacy company helping schools and families ensure every child has the foundation to become a confident reader. Founded and led by leading voices in reading science, they’re building game-based tools to predict and prevent future reading struggles like dyslexia in children from PreK-2nd grade with tools for use in schools and at home. Learn more here

About FCRR
The Florida Center for Reading Research is a multidisciplinary research center at Florida State University that explores all aspects of reading research — basic research into literacy-related skills for typically developing readers and those who struggle, studies of effective prevention and intervention, and psychometric work on formative assessment. Learn more here

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