DSA Cheatsheet: Comprehensive Assessment for the End of the Year

DSA Cheatsheet: Making the Most of this End of the Year Assessment

DSA. BAS. PALS. Like it or not, this is an assessment time of year.  The teachers in my school are expected to complete the PALS Test (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening), Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark, and the DSA (Developmental Spelling Assessment)…and that’s just what they turn in to me.  

There are also English EOY Tests, Math EOY Tests, SRI for second grade, and more.  (I am thrilled we are a K-2 school and don’t have to administer the VA Standards of Learning Test.)

Each spring it’s overwhelming for teachers and students.  I try to help the teachers in any way I can.   

This week we are administering the DSA and I have had lots of questions about scoring and recording the results. Here is a peak at my notes for the teachers. I’ve talked about Word Study before and the DSA gives us a path for student needs.

DSA Evaluation Procedures and Grouping Practices

DSA Cheatsheet: Making the Most of this End of the Year Assessment


Each word is worth 2 points. The first point  is a PERFECT point.  I put the check on the number on the left to indicate it is correct.

Did they spell the word perfectly?  Count up the checks on the left and that is your STAGE SCORE.

The second point is a feature score. I put a check on the feature letter on the right. Did they get the FEATURE right regardless of the rest of the word?  All features are underlined in the Word Journeys book.  Tally these checks in the FEATURE boxes.

Note:  The Stage Score and the Feature Score DOES NOT have to match.  It might, but it usually does not match.

How Do I order the students on the DSA Class Record Sheet?

Start with the highest test given. Let’s assume you gave the Letter Name and Within Word tests.  Start with the Within Word.

  1. Think of each test as a 5 digit number…and put them in order highest to lowest.
  2. Now they are ordered by the FEATURE.
  3. Write the name of the child who had the highest feature scores on the first line and fill in the Within Word columns.
  4. Continue with the whole list; writing the names and filling in the Within Word columns.
  5. Go back to the Letter Name test and fill in the scores beside the names on the list.
DSA Cheatsheet: Making the Most of this End of the Year Assessment

How do I group the students?

DSA Cheatsheet: Making the Most of this End of the Year Assessment

Looking at the DSA Class Record Sheet, circle in pencil any feature next to a 5 (look at the picture above).  For the students who mastered (22-25 stage score) the previous level, look at the highest test level.  This is a starting point.  A 4, once considered “good enough,” is now looked at more critically. 

What word did the student miss?  Have you seen this feature in writing?  Does this student use this feature consistently?  I was told, “A 4 is a foot in the door, but we want more.”  If they do use it consistently, look at the next feature.  If not, consider instruction in the Feature, possibly a few weeks of sorts as a review.  

First Group:  These students will start instruction in Feature G at a moderate pace, before moving to Feature H.  Although Austin had a 5 in Feature G, the review will not hurt him.  (Historically, our school has been weak in r-controlled words, so this time is not wasted). Looking at the list again, from Ellen to Rita, students showed mastery of Letter Name with varied weaknesses in Feature F.  

Taking into consideration the individual student and what they have shown in reading, writing AND trying to keep a group at a manageable size, I would split the group in half.

Finally, 3 students remain.   These students are ending first graders, so I would hope they were further along than
Feature C; therefore, I have to look more closely at their tests, not just their scores.  Sheryl is an anomaly.  Sheryl’s reading level is above grade level and her classroom work supports a higher word study group.  While looking at her responses, she has a specific short vowel confusion. 

She confused a short i with a short e in three of the four words she missed (“rep” for “rip,” “chen” for “chin,” and “creb” for “crib”).  The fourth error was “tumb” for “tub” and can’t be explained.  With a few intervening sorts, Sheryl will probably be able to overcome this confusion.  She was given the Within Word test.  She could be put in the F2 group, with monitoring for future assessments for adjustments.  

Tom had errors in two main areas.  He had errors with vowels and ending blends.  I would suggest he should stay in Letter Name using Feature E.  The vowels can be discussed while using ending blends.  Ursula had 4 errors, 3 with beginning and ending blends, 1 with vowels.  I would suggest she should stay in Letter Name using Feature E, as well. 

The Class

DSA Cheatsheet: Making the Most of this End of the Year Assessment

4 Groups

Austin, Bill, Cathy, can David will start in Feature G.

Ellen, Frank, Grant, Helen, Isabella, Jane, and Katie will start at Feature F at a moderate rate.

Lisa, Marjorie, Noah, Oscar, Peyton, Quincey, Sheryl and Rita will start at Feature F, at a slower rate.

Finally, Tom, and Ursula will start at Feature E.

Now they are ready for instruction…but that’s another post.  I have linked some products to help with these groups below.

Cathy Collier

Feature E

Ending BLends

DSA unlocking features Cathy Collier

feature f


DSA unlocking features Cathy Collier

feature G


DSA unlocking features Cathy Collier

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