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ACE Reading Comprehension Assessment

Supported by Drexel Ventures

Project led by:

Lori Severino, EdD
MJ Tecce DeCarlo, EdD

Teachers work tirelessly day in and day out to educate their students in all areas including literacy and reading comprehension. Unfortunately, at the moment, there are no tools available to help teachers assess reading comprehension of students in grades 6-12. Drexel University researchers are working to change that through the development of Adolescent Comprehension Evolutions or ACE, a new app that allows teachers to evaluate and track reading levels for students.

With the support of a grant through Drexel Ventures and the National Science Foundation, the app, which when completed will be available via a subscription, consists of 60 original reading passages, each with 10 multiple-choice questions. ACE is currently being validated with the cooperation of schools in Philadelphia, its surrounding suburbs, and across the United States.

One of things that makes ACE is unique is the way it helps teachers improve student reading comprehension. ACE gives teachers data about the kinds of errors students make when answering reading comprehension questions. This data allows teachers to differentiate or personalize instruction. ACE measures how long it takes students to answer each question and how many times students revisit reading passages before answering the questions. This information can also guide teachers as they develop reading comprehension lessons for whole classes, small groups, or individuals. In what it believed to be the first use of brain-based technology in test validation, ACE represents an innovation in the assessment space.  Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) allows ACE to make an evidence-based claim that its test questions are text-based and less influenced by background knowledge than other assessments.  This is a need in an educational landscape where student cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic diversity influences the outcomes of assessments.  

When completed, ACE will enable teachers to assess reading comprehension quickly and without the need for individual evaluations and then adjust instruction based on the test’s results. For more information about ACE, please contact Dr. Lori Severino at or Dr. MJ DeCarlo at

See our validation process in Research in Middle Level Education