Monday, February 16, 2015

Formative evaluation of academic progress: how much growth can we expect

Lynn S. Fuchs and Douglas Fuchs spent two years trying to establish norms for weekly progress in reading, math and spelling. Their results were reported in Formative evaluation of academic progress: how much growth can we expect, in School Psychology Review, 1993, 22(1).

For reading they used different methods each year. In the first year they assessed oral reading in 1 minute. In the second year they assessed reading using a computer-based maze task (First sentence is complete. Subsequently every seventh word is removed and students must select it from a series of choices.). The data is interesting in that the results for weekly growth rates are very different for oral reading rates from year to year but for the maze task they were fairly constant.

In the oral reading, younger grade students make more progress than older students. The relationship was more positively linear as well. As students moved through elementary school, the progress became less linear with increased progress at the beginning of the school year and less weekly growth as the year progressed. The chart below summarizes weekly growth for elementary students.

Mean weekly growth (words per week)
Ambitious weekly growth
Standard deviation

Using this information, a teacher can project whether a student is achieving at an expected rate or if instruction or an intervention is being effective. It may be used to target students early on for access to Response to Intervention Services. People should remember what the standard deviation means- 68% of scores should fall in the range. Therefore a fifth grade student making progress of .32 words per week is still within the average range and not really a target for intervention. The long-term results of reading at the low end of the average range is a student who reads significantly more slowly than his peers. To avoid this, it may be worthwhile to provide some extra support at the elementary level in order to provide a boost that will help him read at a rate more like the majority of his peers.

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