Reading problems are the most common type of academic underachievement. Especially for students with dyslexia, learning to read and write can be exceedingly difficult. Dyslexia and related reading and language difficulties are the result of neurobiological variations, but they can be treated with effective instruction.
Effective instruction is instruction that is tied to student needs, as determined by diagnostic testing and evaluation. It is instruction delivered by knowledgeable and skilled individuals in a step-by-step fashion that leads to the achievement of desired outcomes or goals by targeting a student’s relative strengths and strengthening his or her relative weaknesses. Effective instruction also requires the ongoing monitoring of student progress to determine the ultimate course and duration of the instruction.
Q: My child is in second grade and her report card includes a reading level, but I don’t know what it means. How can I find out what the level means so that I can understand what my daughter needs help with?
A: The reading level that you’re referring to is either a number or a letter, which is meant to tell you if your child is reading at grade level. It is based on an assessment called a running record—a record that shows which words the student can and can’t read. But what this assessment does not provide is a more in-depth analysis of your child’s ability to sound out words (decode) and spell accurately.
If you’re concerned that your child is reading below grade level, your first step should be to ask her teacher to explain what the score means in terms of accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.
If you’ve heard the term dyslexia and aren’t sure what it means, you’re not alone. People tend to have a lot of questions about dyslexia. Is it a general term that covers many kinds of learning issues? How is it different from (or the same as) a specific learning disability? The answers here can help you develop a better understanding of dyslexia.
What exactly is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a brain-based condition. It causes difficulty with reading, spelling, writing and sometimes speaking. In people with dyslexia, the brain has trouble recognizing or processing certain types of information. This can include matching letter sounds and symbols (such as the letter b making the buh sound) and blending them together to make words.
Kids know how important reading is. They hear it from their parents and teachers starting at a very young age. So when kids with dyslexia struggle with that vital skill, it can create feelings of anxiety.
In most cases, those feelings are passing and limited to situations that involve reading. That might be anything from reading a menu to taking notes for a book report. But sometimes, kids with dyslexia and other learning issues develop a bigger problem with anxiety.
Screening, diagnosing, and progress monitoring are essential to making sure that all students become fluent readers — and the words-correct per-minute (WCPM) procedure can work for all three. The only aspect of the procedure that has to change is the difficulty level of the text.
For screening, passages are selected from text at the student’s grade level. For diagnosing, passages are selected at the student’s instructional level (which may be lower than her grade level). In this context, instructional level text is challenging but manageable, with the reader making errors on no more than one in 10 words (i.e., the reader is successful with 90 percent of the text) (Partnership for Reading, 2001). For progress monitoring, passages are selected at a student’s individually determined goal level. For example, if an 8th-grade student’s instructional level is at the 5th-grade level, the teacher may conduct the progress monitoring assessments using passages at the 6th-grade level.