Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba, the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Simmons Teaching and Learning, has co-authored an article published in The Journal of Educational Psychology that was selected as the Editor’s Choice. According to the Journal, the article titled: The relations of kindergarten early literacy skill trajectories on common progress monitoring measures to subsequent word reading skills for students at risk for reading difficulties, was chosen for this honor for “reflecting science that is incredibly important, impactful, and deserves additional visibility for the whole field.”
The study, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology (Clemens et al., 2023), addressed the need for reliable and efficient assessment data to inform early and preventative literacy interventions for students at risk of developing reading disabilities. Researchers asked two primary questions: Does growth on certain brief curriculum-based measures predict word reading skills at the end of kindergarten and first grade and which measures are better at predicting which students would have weak word reading skill profiles at the end of first grade?
According to Al Otaiba, “We learned that in fall of kindergarten it was important to monitor letter sound fluency (LSF), or the number of sounds that students name correctly in a minute. During this instructional period, LSF growth was best able to predict students who later struggled to read. However, by spring of kindergarten, as instruction starts to focus on reading words and texts, it was important to monitor word reading fluency (WRF), or the number of words read correctly.” WRF includes short words (2-6 letters); some that are decodable and some that are irregular. Al Otaiba says she and her collaborators hope educators will take away from the study the importance of identifying problems earlier. “Instead of waiting to identify students formally as having dyslexia or a reading disability, typically at grade 3, kindergarten is an important time when schools and teachers can use reliable data from brief curriculum-based measures (LSF and WRF) across the year to adjust instruction and provide more intensive support and resources to prevent word reading difficulties.” She says schools can also use this growth data to confirm their literacy programs are helping most students develop reading skills. By contrast, data for those few students with limited growth despite good instruction (i.e., those who have not responded as well) could be part of a comprehensive evaluation to determine whether students need special education. In other words, the data can be used to ensure children don’t have to wait to fail before supporting their instructional needs.
The article stems from federally funded research in which Al Otaiba served as Co-Principal Investigator with Dr. Nathan Clemens, who was the Principal Investigator. This was a 1.6-million-dollar measurement grant from the Institute of Educational Sciences at U.S. Department of Education titled:(R324A130214) Investigating the Technical Adequacy of Progress Monitoring Measures for Kindergarten Students At-Risk for Reading Disabilities.
The purpose of this grant was to learn more about early assessments of risk for reading difficulties. The grant period was 2013-2017 during which Al Otaiba says she and her SMU Simmons team collaborated closely with Dr. Clemens and his team, first at Texas A&M and later at the University of Texas at Austin. The teams continue to publish several articles and present findings from the study.
The article on the study findings published in the November 2023 issue of the Journal of Educational Psychology was co-authored by Al Otaiba, Clemens, Kejin Lee, Ziao Liu, Alexis Boucher, and Leslie Simmons and can be found at https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2024-12677-001.html?fbclid=IwAR31XYj2bbLRzLdrR5RGtoTiIPdXcMr_FcYuBEpbAUjY1UNxviUZmQiMZvY