Book Excerpt: 'Overcoming Dyslexia'

CBM is administered in the classroom. A child reads aloud a passage at her grade level, and each week she is assessed using a passage of equivalent difficulty. Her oral reading is timed for one minute; as she reads, her teacher follows along with a copy of the passage, using the scoring method described on page 277. The fluency score-the total number of words read per minute minus the number of errors-is calculated and charted. For example, a second grader's fluency (ambitious) rate should increase by two words each week; a fifth grader's growth should come close to one word per week. For this approach to work, a child must be reading at least at a mid-first grade level. It is important not to base any judgment on one or two weeks but, rather, to observe the child's progress over five, six, or more weeks. If she is on track, the program should be continued. If the observed reading growth is below the "ambitious" rate, however, the program needs to be modified. DIBELS (see Chapter 15) is extremely useful for assessing a child's fluency in the early foundational reading skills. Accordingly, it is targeted for children from preschool through grade three. The goal is to identify those children who are not progressing and who may benefit from early intervention. DIBELS (or comparable surveillance) can benefit all beginning readers, especially those who are at risk for a reading disability or who are showing early signs of struggle.

Teaching the Dyslexic Child to Read

The second approach to monitoring progress focuses on a child's absolute level of performance, at a fixed point in time, compared to his age or grade peers as measured by a standardized reading test such as the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test. These results are reported in percentile scores (for example, a nine-year-old boy who is reading at the 40th percentile is superior to 40 percent of all nine-year-old boys). They also may be reported as standard scores, which are adjusted so that 50 percent of the children score either below or above an average score of 100. This kind of standardized test is most often given at the end of the school year. The results establish at what level a child is reading and how he compares to other children of his own age, but they do not help determine how fast he is mastering specific reading skills. Keep in mind that both reading accuracy and reading fluency, as well as comprehension, must be assessed by these standardized measures. Otherwise, students who are accurate but read slowly and with great effort will be overlooked and not receive the required help. All children do not respond in exactly the same manner to a program. Most important is the trajectory. A relatively flat line indicating little progress loudly proclaims the need for a change, just as a steep upward incline proudly trumpets rapid progress. Happily, new reading programs, like those I have recommended and those adhering to Reading First requirements, routinely build in ongoing monitoring.

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