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  • Learning Disabilities Research

    Learning Disabilities Research & Practice. 25(2), 60-75 0 2010 TI1e Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptiona.l Children

    Creating a Progress-Monit01ing System in Reading for Middle-School Students: Tracking Progress Toward Meeting High-Stakes Standards

    Christine Espin, Teri Wallace, Erica Lembke, Heather Campbell, and Jeffrey D. Long Universi(l' of Minnesota

    In this study, we examined the reliability and validity of curriculum-based measures (CBM) in reading for indexing the perfonnance of secondary-school students. Participants were 236 eighth-grnde students (134 females and 102 males) in the classrooms of 17 English teachers. Students completed 1-, 2-. and 3-minute reading aloud and 2-, 3-, and 4-minute maze selection tasks. The relation between performance on the CBMs and the state reading test were examined. Results revealed that both reading aloud and maze selection were refotble and valid predictors of performance on the state standards tests, with validity coefficients above. 70. An exploratory follow-up .study was conducted in which the growth curves produced by the reading-aloud and maze-selection measures were compared for a subset of 31 students from the original study. For these 31 students, maze selection reflected change over time whereas reading aloud did not. This pattern of results was found for both lower- and higher-performing students. Results suggest that it is important to com;ider both performance and progress when examining the technical adequacy of CBMs. implications for the use of measures with secondary-level student::, for progress monitoring are discussed_

    In recent years, much attention has been directed to early intervention and prevention in reading. An alternative to a singular focus on early intervention is an approach in which early intervention ls cori1bined with continuous, long-term, intensive interventions for struggling readers, "Long term" in this approach refers to reading instruction that extends into the high school years. The goal of such an approach would be to diminish the magnitude of reading difficulties experienced by struggling readers and increase the likelihood of postgraduation success, Supporting the notion that long­ term, intensive reading interventions may be needed for a select group of student,;; are two sources of data: ( l) results of early intervention studies and (2) results of secondary­ school studies for students with learning disabilities.

    Need for Long-Term, Intensive Intervention Efforts

    Recent research on the effects of early identification and intervention programs have produced promising outcomes and demonstrated reductions in the magnitude and preva­ lence of reading failure (O'Connor, Fulmer, Harty, & Beli, 2005; O'Connor, Harty, & Fulmer, 2005; Vaughn, Linan­ Thompson, & Hickman, 2003). However, these studies also

    Requests for reprints should be sent to Christine Espin, Wassenaarseweg 52. PO Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlanda.. Electronic inquiries .~hould be sent to espinca@)fsw.Jeidenuniv.nL

    have uncovered a small group of children who "fail to thrive'" (Vaughn et al., 2003), even when given intensive and poten­ tially powerful interventions. Such children either do not reach a level of performance that warrants placement into a typical instructional setting or do not maintain satisfactory levels of performance without continued intensive interven~ tions. These students have reading difficulties that seem to be especially resistant to change (see Torgesen, 2000) and are oft.en considered to have learning disabilities (LD).

    Research at the secondary-school level reveals that stu­ dents with LD continue to experience reading difficulties well into their high school years. Secondary-school students with LD experience difficulties with phonological, language comprehension, and reading fluency skills (Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes, & Lipsey, 2000; Vellutino, Fletcher, Snowling, & Scanlon, 2004; Vellutino, Scanlon, & Tanzman, 1994; Vel­ lutino, Tunmer, Jaccard, & Chen, 2007). They typically per­ form at levels 4-6 years behind non-LD peers in reading and score in the lowest decile on reading achievement tests (Deshler, Schumaker, Alley, Warner, & Clark, 1982; Levin, Zigmond, & Birch, 1985; Warner, Schumaker, Alley,& Desh­ ler, l 980). For example, on the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (Lee, Grigg, & Donahue, 2007), 66 percent of students with disabilities in public schools scored below a Basic Level, compared to only 24 percent of students without disabilities. (A Basic Level implies partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for proficient work at a given grade level.)


  • Taken together, research on younger and older children with reading difficulties produces a picture of students whose reading difficulties begin early and persist throughout their schooJ career. For such students a program of intervention that begins early-and then continues throughout their school careers--is needed.

    Reading Interventions at the Secondary-School Level

    Two questions arise when considering reading interventions for secondary-school students with LD. The first is: At what level do students need to read to be successful after high school graduation? ln recent years, this question often has been addressed through the development of state standards tests in reading. Such tests define, by design or default, the level of reading considered to be necessary for students to be successful at the secondary-school level-this despite the faet that the extent to which many state tests reflect the type of reading necessary for success either in school or in postsec­ ondary settings is unknown. However, given the high~stakes nature of state tests for schools in terms of meeting No Child Left Behind standards, and for students Who are required to pass reading tests to graduate (as is the case in 23 states; Center on Education Policy, 2008), the tests are an important outcome for students and schools at the secondary-school level.

    The second question is: How can we determine whether our reading interventions are eflective? The reading progress of secondary-school students with LD might prove to be slow and incremental-but not necessarily unimportant. For example, improvement of even one grade level (to use a typical metric) in reading over the course of 4 years in high school might translate into large advantages in post-high school settings. Yet are there instruments that are sensitive to such slow and incremental growth? Are those instruments reliable and valid, and can they be tied to success on tasks of importance, such as performance on state reading tests or performance in postsecondary educational settings? One instrument that might potentially fulfill these requirements is curriculum-based measurement (CBM).


    CBM is a system of measurement designed to allow teachers to monitor student progress and evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs (Deno, 1985). The success of CBM relies on two key characteristics: practicality and technical adequacy (Deno, l 985). With respect to practicality, if the measures are to be given on a frequent basis, they must be time efficient and easy to develop, administer, and score and must allow for the creation of multiple equivalent forms. With respect to technical adequacy, if the measures are to provide educationally useful information, they must be valid and re­ liable indicators of perfonnance in an academic area. For a measure to be considered a valid indicator of performance, evidence must demonstrate that performance on the measure relates to performance in the academic domain more broadly.


    In reading, the number of words read correctly in I minute is often used as a CBM indicator of general reading perfor­ mance at the elementary-school level (Wayman, Wallace, Wi.ley, Ticha, & Espin, 2007). One-minute reading-aloud measures are time efficient and easy to develop, adminis­ ter, and score, and they allow for the creation of multiple eguivaJent forms. Further, a large body of research supports the relation between the number of words read aloud in 1 minute and other measures of reading proficiency, including reading comprehension (see reviews by Marston, 1989; Way­ man et al., 2007). Although most CBM reading research has focused on a reading-aloud measure, support also has been found for the technical adequacy of a maze-selection mea­ sure ( see Wayman et al., 2007). In a maze-selection measure, every seventh word of a passage is deleted and replaced with a multiple-choice item consisting of the correct word plus two distracters. Students read through the text and choose the correct word for each multiple-choice item. Specific to the present study, both reading-aloud (Crawford, Tindal, & Stieber, 2001; Hintze & Silberglitt, 2005; McGlinchey & Hixson, 2004; Silberglitt & Hintze, 2005; Stage & Jacobsen, 2001) and maze-selection measures (Wiley & Deno, 2005) have been shown to predict performance on state standards tests.

    Although research supports the technical adequacy of both reading aloud and maze selection, the majority of that research ha5 been done at the elementary-school level (Wayman et aL, 2007). Far less research has been conducted in reading at the secondary-school level, even though the re­ sults of cross-age studies suggest that the nature and type of CBM in reading might need to change as students become older and more proficient readers (Jenkins