Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Evaluating the Interpretations and Use of Curriculum-Based Measurement in Reading and Word Lists for Universal Screening in First and Second Grade

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Evaluating the Interpretations and Use of Curriculum-Based Measurement in Reading and Word Lists for Universal Screening in First and Second Grade

Article excerpt

Universal screening, a core component of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports framework, is used for early identification of students who may be at risk for learning disabilities. Resultant data are used to inform early intervention, which is an effective approach to prevent reading difficulties (Vellutino, Scanlon, Small, & Fanuele, 2006). Curriculum-based measurement in reading (CBM-R) and nonsense word fluency (NWF) are often used for universal screening in the early elementary grades (Deno et al., 2009). Word identification fluency (WIF), albeit less frequently used, is another universal screening measure available to schools. Although there are clear benefits to administering CBM-R, NWF, and WIF, there are limitations associated with the use of NWF and WIF, and concerns about the ability of NWF scores to classify at-risk early readers accurately (Clemens, Shapiro, & Thoemmes, 2011).


CBM-R is a task in which students read aloud from grade-level text as the examiner listens and records their performance to estimate oral reading rate, which is typically reported in the metric of words read correctly per minute (WRCM). One benefit of administering CBM-R is that as a general outcome measure, it indexes global reading performance across the academic year, instead of measuring the specific, hierarchically organized subskills of reading (Fuchs & Deno, 1991). Although many published studies exist indicating that CBM-R is useful for universal screening (January & Ardoin, 2015; Kilgus, Methe, Maggin, & Tomasula, 2014; Reschly, Busch, Betts, Deno, & Long, 2009), the procedure requires students to integrate the many components of skilled reading required to read connected text (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, & Jenkins, 2001), including decoding and word identification. However, many students in the early elementary grades are not yet prepared to read connected text, so the task may be too difficult and may result in poor classification accuracy for emerging readers who are at risk for developing reading disabilities (Catts, Petscher, Schatschneider, Bridges, & Mendoza, 2009; Hosp, Hosp, & Dole, 2011). It is potentially for this reason publishers of curriculum-based measurement (CBM) probes recommend that the earliest CBM-R should be administered for universal screening is in the winter of first grade, and even then, NWF should be administered in conjunction with CBM-R for the remainder of the year (Good & Kaminski, 2007; Pearson, 2012).


In contrast to CBM-R, NWF is a subskill mastery measure that combines sound identification and blending of vowel-consonant (VC) and consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) pseudowords to measure students' letter-sound correspondence, decoding skills, and progress as emerging readers (Good, Baker, & Peyton, 2009). Evidence indicates NWF scores account for a large portion of the variance in word reading and pseudoword decoding (Burke & Hagan-Burke, 2007; Oslund et al., 2012). Research also has demonstrated that NWF scores have moderate to strong concurrent and predictive associations with CBM-R performance (Burke & Hagan-Burke, 2007; Cummings, Dewey, Latimer, & Good, 2011; Harn, Stoolmiller, & Chard, 2008) and reading achievement (Fien et al., 2008, 2010).

Given that NWF is a decoding task, students can use different approaches to correctly decode each word. That is, students are able to say the individual sounds in each word, partially blend the word, or say the word as a unit. Thus, NWF has the potential of providing more information about students' decoding skills and potential risk for reading problems than other CBM measures. For instance, students who decode pseudowords as units (as opposed to sound by sound or partial blending with or without recoding) score higher on NWF probes and subsequent measures of oral reading (Harn et al., 2008). Furthermore, students who blend nonsense words as units generally have better phonemic skills and have improved automaticity than students who decode the individual letter sounds or use a combination of strategies (Cummings et al. …

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