A Guide to Your Child’s DRA Reading Levels Progress

Every child starts out as a beginner in their reading journey. It is necessary to assess their reading ability based on their grade level. Understanding where your child is on the DRA reading levels is an essential part of helping them make progress.

What Is Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)?

Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) is a standardized testing tool that measures the reading ability of a student. Instructors use this tool to identify a student’s reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.

It evaluates a child’s knowledge of the content of a text and skills acquired in reading. It also considers a student’s comprehension strategies for making inferences, analyzing text structure, and inferring meaning.

This is a widely-used measure of reading ability in the United States and Canada. The test is for children from toddlers to 8th graders. DRA can be completed at home, at school, or community setting.

Why Is DRA Important?

DRA assessment is essential because this is what educators use for determining children’s reading levels. This process is a standard set by the U.S. Department of Education.

This standardized testing process reviews your child’s reading level and ascertains their reading development. It illustrates a child’s strengths and weaknesses in reading comprehension.

Teachers use DRA results to create reading groups, plan appropriate level texts, and identify areas of weakness in each student. The teachers can understand where each child should receive extra attention.

Parents can use this information to ensure their children are doing as they should by giving them clear guidelines and appropriate books. The DRA process is also used to determine which schools students should attend.

boy sitting near a red table and reading a book
Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

How are DRA Reading levels determined?

DRA is a standardized system that helps children learn to read at a faster rate. Every student has an equal and fair opportunity to display their reading comprehension skills.

The DRA reading level is a measure from kindergarten to the eighth grade. Each level contains over 200 questions, making the assessment quick and easy.

These questions are geared towards understanding how dependent a student is on oral language. The questions measure the difficulty and differentiation of a student’s text comprehension. They are written in a way that allows the teacher to observe growth and pinpoint where the student is struggling.

The DRA reading level is determined based on the following segments:

Phonemic awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual letter sounds in spoken words. This section test your child’s understanding of rhyming, alliteration, segmentation, and general phonemic awareness.

For example, when a child can hear and identify the sound /r/ and /a/ and /t/ to spell out the word “rat,” it means their phonemic awareness is strengthening.

Alphabetic Principle

As the name suggests, this section tests the child’s alphabetical knowledge. It involves naming letters, decoding words, knowing the correct spellings, reading out words from a list, understanding letter-sound correspondence, and much more.


This section is geared towards assessing your child’s flow of reading. DRA determines their fluency to evaluate if they are a smooth or choppy reader according to their grade level. It describes a child’s oral fluency in terms of rate, accuracy, and expression to test if they can understand a text. This section also tests vocabulary knowledge, comprehension, and reading skills.

How is the DRA score assigned?

After conducting the test, each child is assigned a numeric DRA level ranging from 1 to 80.

The DRA levels start with an alphanumeric A1, meaning the easiest books for the very early readers. Then the levels proceed with a numeric grading system all the way to 80, which represents the eighth grade. The higher the DRA score, the better the child’s reading abilities.


The skill of reading is something that children learn as they grow up. But with the current state of schooling, proficiency in reading is not tested but instead assumed to be at a certain level. This is a flawed and incomplete process.

DRA is an assessment of how a child progresses through the building blocks of reading. It is a tool for identifying children with learning difficulties and measuring their ability to learn how to read.

With the help of the DRA reading levels, parents and teachers can closely track the progress of children’s reading ability. They can quickly pinpoint the skills they are learning and the weaknesses that need improvement.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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