UURC Research - Student Impact

Sensitive standardized measures of reading ability have been used to evaluate the impact of UURC intervention on student reading performance in Title I schools throughout the state of Utah. Measures include:

Woodcock Reading Mastery - Word Attack Subtest (WRMT-WA): a standardized, norm-referenced assessment for ability to identify unfamiliar psuedowords, the "cleanest" method for assessing decoding ability (for reliability and validity information, see Woodcock, 2011).

UURC Reading Level Assessment (RLA): a standardized, criterion-referenced assessment for instructional reading level in relation to grade level expectations based on oral reading accuracy, rate, and reading comprehension (for reliability and validity information, see Craig, Brown, Fields, & Morris, 2009; Frye & Morris, 2007; Frye, Trathen, Olson, & Schlagal, 2002; Morris, 1999a; Palmer, Trathen, Olson, & Schlagal, 2002).

UURC Word Recognition Automaticity Flash (WRA): a standardized, criterion-referenced assessment for word recognition automaticity (for reliability and validity information, see preceding citations).

Student Assessment of Growth & Excellence (SAGE): a Utah State Office of Education standardized, criterion-referenced assessment of reading and language arts achievement based on CCSS. (www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/SAGE.aspx).

Phase I - Years 1-6 Student Baselines: All grade 1 students selected to receive Early StepsSM intervention were identified as "seriously at risk" for reading difficulties based on their performance on a screening administered in early September. At that time, all first graders who participated in the project (years 1 - 6 = 428) demonstrated incomplete mastery of the alphabet, deficient phonemic awareness, and inability to read high frequency (e.g., the, is, me) or decodable words (e.g., lip, nut).

Second through eighth graders selected to receive Next or Higher StepsSM intervention had been identified as having "significant reading difficulties" based on their performance on an assessment administered in early September. At that time, participating students (years 1 - 6 = 1,249) scored one to four years below expectations, with most beginning intervention reading at primer to end-first grade levels.

Phase I - Years 1-6 Student Post-Test Results: After an average of 85 Early StepsSM tutoring sessions, 28%, 31%, 38%, 38%, 21%, and 38% of the project's first graders finished the school year reading at or above grade level, for Years 1 through 6, respectively. It is important to note that the project's criteria for grade level performance are rigorous. It mandates at least 90% accuracy and an oral reading rate of at least 40 words per minute on the end-of-first-grade passage (Hasbrouck & Tindale, 1992; Morris, 2004; Morris, Tyner, & Perney, 2000; Santa & Hoien, 1998). These criteria predict an 80% probability of a student reaching mastery level on a third grade high stakes assessment. Thus, the criteria set a high, but desirable "benchmark" of predicted success.

At the end of the school year, 52%, 57%, 68%, 73%, 61%, 71% of the project's first graders finished the school year reading at or above primer level. Project criteria for this benchmark required the student to read a primer level passage with at least 90% accuracy and an oral reading rate of at least 30 words per minute (Good, Harn, Kame'enui, Simmons, & Coyne, 2003; Morris, 2004; Morris et al., 2000; Santa & Hoien, 1998). This benchmark is significant because a primer level reader (roughly equivalent to March of first grade) has established an important level of reading independence. A primer reader has developed automaticity for approximately 75 high frequency words - a corpus large enough to build on. With this foundation in place, students who exit first grade reading on a primer are likely to be able to access second grade text and make continued progress - a feat not as likely for students who exit on a pre-primer level.

Participating students in grades 2 through 8 began the school year from one to four years below level. After approximately 45 Next StepsSM or Higher StepsSM sessions, these students averaged 1.0 to 1.27 years of growth in reading ability. This growth is in marked contrast to these students' experiences during prior years when no, or less than one-half year's growth was the norm.

It is important to note that the greatest improvement during Year 3, 5, 6, and 7 was achieved by older English Language Learners, specifically those in grades 5 through 8. Despite common notions that older students are unmotivated and unlikely to respond to intervention, project participants found these students eager to improve their reading abilities and appreciative of the help they received. Anecdotally, students cited desires to "make their parents proud," and "getting a good job" as impeti for their efforts.

Corroborating evidence comes from word recognition automaticity (WRA) and Woodcock Word Attack (WRMT-WA) pre-post data: during years 4 and 5, students in grades 2-8 averaged a year's growth (1.08 and 1.01) on the WRA and gained an average of 6 raw score points (6.31 and 6.11) respectively on the WRMT-WA.