Students with poor oral reading fluency are frequently tagged as needing extra help to develop their reading skills and comprehension. How well does oral reading fluency predict performance on statewide proficiency tests?
With the implementation of No Child Left Behind, researchers are more closely studying the link between oral reading fluency and performance on these tests. Some of the questions they are asking include: Can oral reading fluency predict who will pass and who will fail state tests? Does the relationship between oral reading fluency and reading comprehension change with age, grade or reading level? Does it change across classrooms or ability groups (high vs. low ability students)?
In a recent issue of Educational Assessment, David E. Wood from the Estes Park School District in Estes Park, Colorado, finds significant correlations between oral reading fluency and performance on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) for grades 3-5.
“An assessment system is needed that provides important indicators regarding whether students are making adequate progress toward standards, and thus are likely to be proficient on statewide tests,” Wood writes.
Reading fluency cut scores
Reading fluency cut scores provided valuable information about whether students would pass or fail the Colorado statewide exam, Wood says. He also found that oral fluency reliably predicted performance in the statewide test in all three grades. Other studies have focused on only one grade, usually third or fourth grade.
In this study, 281 elementary grade students were tested with DIBELS, a measure of oral reading fluency, two months prior to taking the CSAP. There were five classrooms at each grade level. The Colorado students were predominantly white and from one middle-class community. In analyzing the data, Wood found that for every 1-point increase in oral reading fluency, there was a corresponding increase of 1.23 points in the CSAP score. The researcher found that the increase in oral reading fluency each year was 16.36 words per minute.
For students who have already taken the statewide assessment, a student’s performance in previous years also provides information about future performance. When this was taken into account, Wood says that oral reading fluency contributed a relatively small proportion of the variance, but it still supplied additional information about individual students.
One of the most interesting findings of the study, Wood writes, was that the relation between oral reading fluency and CSAP performance varied with the individual classrooms. The variations could indicate different levels of teacher effectiveness or different levels of emphasis on fluency or comprehension. More research is needed on the predictability of oral reading fluency measures further in advance of statewide testing to allow more time for intervention, Wood says.
“Modeling the Relationship Between Oral Reading Fluency and Performance on a Statewide Reading Test” Educational Assessment, Volume 11 Number 2, pps. 85-104.
Published in ERN November 2006 Volume 19 Number 8