Broward County Public Schools adopted the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) for the elementary schools to be used with all students in kindergarten to third grade and for struggling readers in fourth and fifth grade. The BAS serves as a diagnostic and progress monitoring tool for teachers to examine students’ literacy strengths and needs in order to inform instruction and ensure students’ growth as learners.

Benchmark Assessments are administered as one-on-one, student-teacher assessment conferences. The student reads aloud and engages in a reading conversation using a series of alternating fiction and nonfiction benchmark books while teacher observes and codes reading behaviors on a recording form. The information gathered from the oral reading and comprehension conversation combined helps the teacher determine a placement level for guided reading instruction and independent. Below is a description of each part of a BAS recording form.

  • Part 1: Oral Reading
    Students read a benchmark fiction or nonfiction book aloud while the teacher takes a detailed reading record to determine students’ accuracy and fluency.
  • Part 2: Comprehension conversation
    Students and teachers engage in conversation about the text while the teacher gathers data about what students understand about a text.
  • Part 3: Writing About Reading
    Students have the opportunity to reflect on text through the process of writing.

Building a Student’s Strategic Base

Readers use all of the strategic actions shown in figure 1.0 when they process text. Each of the strategic actions represent the types of thinking the brain engages in while reading. These categories represent the reading behaviors of proficient readers. The data gathered from the BAS informs teacher next teaching steps in an effort to continue to develop students’ systems of strategic actions. As students read orally, teachers gain evidence of the first five systems of strategic actions from thinking within the text. Their talk and writing provide evidence of the last seven system of strategic actions starting with “summarizing” in thinking within the text, thinking about the text and thinking beyond the text.

Within the Text

About the Text

Beyond the Text

Searching for and Using Information

Noticing and using meaning, language structure, phonological information, visual information.


Anticipating what may happen next.


Noticing aspects of the writer’s craft including text structure.

Monitoring and Self-Correcting

Checking on accuracy and understanding and working to self-correct errors.

Making Connections

Connecting the text to personal and world knowledge as to other texts.


Thinking critically about the text.

Solving Words

Using a range of strategies to recognize and take apart words, and understand word meaning.


Adjusting present understanding to accommodate new knowledge.


Maintain Fluency

Maintaining good rate, integrating phrasing, pausing, intonation, and stress.


Thinking about what the writer means but has not stated.



Taking action in flexible ways to solve problems or fit purpose and genre.



Remembering important information and carrying it forward.

  Figure 1.0    

For access to the Fountas and Pinnell Systems of Strategic Actions:

Understanding Text-Gradient Levels

Figure 2.0

The Benchmark Assessment System is directly linked to classroom instruction. It provides teachers with a student’s instructional and independent reading level. The text levels represent the range of behaviors and understandings needed to successfully process texts. The Fountas & Pinnell text gradient level as shown in Figure 2.0 represents text levels that have been categorized along a continuum from kindergarten to high school.

A text gradient is a tool for teachers to:

  • design lessons and plan teaching moves
  • analyze and select appropriate texts appropriate for students
  • track progress over time in reading
  • determine need for intensive intervention in reading

A text gradient is not a tool to:

  • use to label students as readers
  • use as incentive for students to practice reading
  • compare students with others
  • use as a grade on a report card

Responsive Teaching: From Assessment to Literacy Instruction

Teachers use the BAS to continuously observe students’ reading, writing, and language behaviors and gather data about literacy learning throughout their day to day instructional cycle in order to response to students’ literacy needs.

“If assessment is considered “separate” from instruction, it will always be superfluous, ineffective, even dreaded and annoying interruption.”
Fountas & Pinnell: Guided Reading page 202