The Confluence of Reading Efficiency and Orthographic Knowledge in Proficient and Non-Proficient Fourth- and Fifth-Grade Readers

The Confluence of Reading Efficiency and Orthographic Knowledge in Proficient and Non-Proficient Fourth- and Fifth-Grade Readers

First Author: Kristin M. Gehsmann -- East Carolina University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Alexandra Spichtig; Jeffrey Pascoe; John Ferrara; Elias Tousley
Keywords: Spelling, Literacy development, Eye movements, Fluency, Comprehension
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: This study examined the reading efficiency (comprehension-based silent reading rate, fixations, and regressions) and orthographic knowledge of proficient (reading at/above grade level) and non-proficient (reading below grade level) US students in grades 4 and 5.

Method: Students in grades 4 and 5 (n=322) were classified either “proficient” or “non-proficient” based on their performance on three different reading assessments: 1. GRADE, a 90-minute pencil/paper test, 2. SBAC, a 3.5-hour online assessment used in 13 states and 2 US territories, and 3. InSight, a 30-minute web-based, adaptive reading assessment. Reading efficiency data were captured using Visagraph, an eye-movement recording system, and orthographic knowledge was assessed using the Elementary Spelling Inventory (ESI), a developmental spelling assessment that takes approximately 10 minutes to administer.

Results: While there were small differences in the percentages of students classified as proficient or non-proficient across the three reading assessments, the mean efficiency and spelling measures of the corresponding proficiency groups were nearly identical. Significant differences were detected between non-proficient and proficient groups across all efficiency measures (fixations and reading rate p<.001; regressions p<.05). For example, students’ reading rate differed between proficient and non-proficient students by 50 wpm in grade 4 and up to 60 wpm in grade 5.

Similar results were detected between the proficiency groups in regard to their orthographic knowledge (p <.001 for spelling features, words, and spelling total scores). While the non-proficient students were, on average, in the transitional stage of development (stage 3) in both grades 4 and 5, the proficient students were on average in the intermediate stage (stage 4).

Conclusions: This research demonstrates the importance of reading efficiency and orthographic knowledge in the development of proficient reading.