Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Using Nonsense Word Fluency to Predict Reading Proficiency in Kindergarten through Second Grade for English Learners and Native English Speakers

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Using Nonsense Word Fluency to Predict Reading Proficiency in Kindergarten through Second Grade for English Learners and Native English Speakers

Article excerpt

Abstract. This study examined the validity of Nonsense Word Fluency as an index of beginning reading proficiency for students in kindergarten through second grade. Validity evidence for Nonsense Word Fluency is addressed in the context of research-based instructional practices implemented on a large scale. Technical adequacy data are presented for all students in participating schools, and separately for English learners and native English speakers. Five cohorts of students participated, with each cohort representing approximately 2,400 students. Results support the use of Nonsense Word Fluency in the early grades to screen students for reading problems and predict early reading proficiency. The use of this measure in reading reform is discussed as well as implications for school psychologists.

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Reading First is a federal program with the goal of all children reaching grade-level reading proficiency by the end of third grade, which requires an integrated system of reading instruction and assessments designed to prevent reading problems (Reading First, P.L. 107-110, 2002). This system begins in earnest in kindergarten. In addition, the response to intervention (RTI) initiative attempts to reduce the number of students who are misidentified as having a learning disability by intervening strategically and intensely in the early grades (Reading First, P.L. 108-446, 2002). The basis of the prevention framework of these reforms is substantial evidence demonstrating the importance of early academic achievement on a range of long-term outcomes (Finn, Gerber, & Boyd-Zaharias, 2005). The level of school-wide assessment data needed for prevention-oriented reform is unprecedented in public education. These assessments must be able to provide a direct measure of an important skill and approximate performance on a comprehensive measure of learning. In the early grades, a foundational skill of later reading proficiency is the alphabetic principle, which is the ability to link the internal structure of words (letters and letter strings) to their sounds (phonemes). The alphabetic principle is comprised of two fundamental skills: (a) alphabetic understanding (knowledge of letter-sound correspondences) and (b) phonological recoding (the ability to blend sounds to read words; National Research Council, 1998). Thus, a critical component of an assessment system should include a direct measure of students' alphabetic understanding and phonological recoding skill.

Assessing the Alphabetic Principle Using Pseudoword Reading

There is strong empirical support for the use of measures of pseudoword reading to assess the alphabetic principle. In the National Reading Panel report, of the 38 studies included in the meta-analysis on phonics interventions, 18 included a measure of pseudoword reading to determine intervention effectiveness (National Reading Panel, 2002). Moreover, numerous studies have reported substantial correlations between the ability to read pseudowords and the ability to read real words (Beech & Awaida, 1992; Felton & Wood, 1992; Manis, Szeszulski, Holt, & Graves, 1990). In fact, Curtis (1980) concluded that the ability to read pseudowords was the single best predictor of reading ability. Through hierarchical regression procedures, word reading ability was found to be the key predictor of reading comprehension, and pseudoword reading regularly accounted for the greatest portion of variance in word reading performance (Curtis, 1980).

Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) is a direct measure of pseudoword reading. It is designed to measure alphabetic understanding and phonological recoding ability (Good, Baker, & Peyton, in press). Measures such as NWF and other pseudoword reading measures (e.g., Woodcock Reading Mastery Test--Revised Word Attack subtest; Woodcock, 1987) specifically isolate how well students apply their understanding of phonics rules in learning to decode. …

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