Academic journal article Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research

Examining Oral Reading Fluency Trajectories among English Language Learners and English Speaking Students

Academic journal article Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research

Examining Oral Reading Fluency Trajectories among English Language Learners and English Speaking Students

Article excerpt

Children from Spanish-speaking countries (i.e. Hispanics1) comprise the largest minority group among youth (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). For instance, in California, approximately one-third of the residents are Hispanic (Cauce & Domenech-Rodriguez, 2002). It has been estimated that the majority of the language minority population in the United States is Spanish-speaking (Greenberg, Macias, Rhodes, & Chan, 2001). The recent expansion of Hispanic population in the United States is reflected in the 100% increase of Spanish- speaking students receiving bilingual and ESL services since 1984 (Bentz & Pavri, 2001).

As a group, Spanish-speaking English language learning students are at an increased risk of having academic problems. The confluence of risk factors including low socioeconomic status and, more importantly, limited access to bilingual education programs due to resource limitations or policy (e.g. Propositions 227 in California, 203 in Arizona; both mandate English only instruction), have been associated with lower scores in reading, mathematics, and science for Hispanic students relative to their Anglo peers and increased school dropout rates (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Given the aforementioned factors, Hispanic students who are also English Language Learners (ELL) but come to be placed in English-only programs perceivably find themselves at an increased risk level for learning problems, especially as regards learning to read in English.

The Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) methodology as used to assess reading has proved to be a valuable strategy for assessing progress in skilled reading by students (Deno, 1985; Deno & Fuchs, 1987; Fuchs & Deno, 1991; Powell-Smith & Bradley-Klug, 2001; Shinn, 1989). The CBM methodology, which generally consists of students reading aloud for one minute from an appropriate passage yielding an oral fluency score (i.e. number of words read correctly per minute), has two highly relevant uses. Firstly, individual reading probes have been measured at a single point in time for purposes of screening and identifying relative rank in comparison to the group as in normative testing (for instance, as described by Habendank- Stewart & Kaminski, 2002; Shinn, 1989); and secondly, repeated measures have been used to measure growth over time in oral reading fluency (for instance, as described by Shinn, 1989). CBM stands out as one of the few brief forms of measurement with a large body of data supporting its technical adequacy and practical application to children assessment in elementary grades (Howell, Kurns, & Antil, 2002; Fuchs & Deno, 1991, 1994; Marston & Magnusson, 1985; Shinn, 1989; Tindal, 1993).


Although many facets of CBM have been investigated with monolingual English speaking students, its use with ELLs has received relatively scant empirical attention (Baker & Good, 1995; Baker, Plasencia-Pienado, & Lytle, 1998; Bentz & Pavri, 2001). The extant literature does provide preliminary evidence that CBM can be used to examine reading skills of language- minority students (Baker & Good, 1995). However, no previous research has been conducted to investigate growth specifically over the primary school grades of English Language Learners' oral reading fluency in English and its relationship to high stakes reading tests.

In addressing the perception of increased academic risk among ELLs, it is important to determine expected parameters of literacy growth under typical instruction conditions (Baker et al. 1998). While estimates of individual and normative academic progress indices have long been touted as a CBM methodology strength (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, Walz, & Germann, 1993; Hasbrouck & Tindal, 1992; Shinn, 1989), further research is necessary to ascertain its utility and validity to estimate similar indices for ELLs. For instance, in a seminal study about students with reading disabilities, Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz and Fletcher (1996) investigated whether the developmental lag versus the deficit model better explained the growth of students with reading disabilities compared to typically developing readers. …

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