Spotlight on Reading Fluency: Making the Most of ORF Assessment Data

We as teachers use Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) data as one key indicator of reading success. ORF measurements like University of Oregon's DIBELS/DIBELS Next, Pearson Education's AIMSWEB, Read Naturally's Benchmark Assessor, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's EasyCBM, help us hone in whether students are hitting the mark in two succinct data points: rate and accuracy. This data is often used to report on learning progress, determine reading groups, and refer students to intervention.

While many students in a given general education classroom may read fluently, at grade level, with proper prosody, and reasonable accuracy (above 95%), other students will miss the mark. Their fluency rate and accuracy will be lower than expected and those assessments can provide powerful clues to the crux of their reading difficulty and serve as roadmaps for personalized reading intervention.

Here are four ways to use ORF data to improve reading fluency for struggling readers:

1.     Is rate the issue?  If a student’s ORF rate is accurate (95% and higher), but their rate is slow compared to the grade-level benchmark, perhaps all they need is increased oral reading exposure.

2.     Is accuracy the issue? If a student’s ORF accuracy is low (95% or below) even if students are reading at a rate that is technically at grade level benchmarks, this may be an indication that there is a problem.

3.     What types of errors are repeated?  Looking at the types of errors made can help us figure out the root of the problem. Is a student stumbling over the same sounds over and over again? Are the initial sounds, vowel sounds, or final sounds causing the most difficulty? Are students skipping words or inserting words that aren’t there? Are common sight words problematic and replaced by other sight words that don’t belong? All of these issues could point to trouble with decoding. When there are gaps in the basic ability to connect the proper sounds to their corresponding symbols, reading fluency will undoubtedly be affected.

4.     Is the rate of progress consistent with expected growth? Although this is perhaps the most often overlooked by us, it is one of the most important indicators of whether the student who struggles with reading is closing the gap with respect to their peers. Using fluency norms like Hasbrouck and Tindal or DIBELS as a guide, we can track whether students are progressing at the proper rate. Average expected growth is roughly a word a week, give or take. If students are making progress, but not enough to close the gap, their intervention should be increased or intensified.

Have other ways you use ORF data to personalize learning? Share them with us below!