A longitudinal analysis of the alignment between children’s early word-level reading trajectories, teachers’ reported concerns and supports provided

Year: 2019

Author: Graham, Linda, White, Sonia, Tancredi, Haley, Snow, Pamela, Cologon, Kathy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this longitudinal mixed-methods study, the word-level reading trajectories of 118 children through Grades One to Three were tracked, alongside their teacher’s reported concerns, and the types of support provided. The analysis we will present proceeded in two phases, beginning with quantitative analysis of word-level reading scores as measured by the Test of Word Reading Efficiency, 2nd Edition (ToWRE-2; Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 2012) and the identification of group trajectories for further qualitative analysis. In the subsequent phase, we focused our analysis on three of these groups to investigate the alignment and nature of teachers’ concerns and the supports provided. Results from the quantitative analysis of children's ToWRE-2 data revealed a significant decline in word-level reading composite scores over time for the full sample. At the subtest level, mean scores were significantly lower in phonemic decoding than in word recognition across all three time points. Five group trajectories were identified: children who achieved average or above average scores across all three years (n=64), children who consistently bordered on average (n=11), children who achieved below average in Grade One but who then achieved average or above in Grade Two or Three (n=7), children who achieved average or above average in Grade One but then declined to below average in Grade Two or Three (n=10), and children who consistently achieved below average across all three years (n=26). Participating teachers were mostly accurate in their categorisation of children’s academic position in their class and their concerns were highest for students in the groups that improved, declined or remained persistently below average. However, analysis of the supports provided to the children in these three groups suggests that teachers are not always accurate in their estimation of the source of children’s difficulties, resulting in the misalignment of support provision. Further, only one of the supports provided was backed by reliable peer-reviewed empirical evidence and most did not pay the attention to phonemic decoding necessary to address the decoding weaknesses identified in this sample. The paper concludes with suggestions to enable teachers to more accurately identify and support children experiencing difficulty in the process of learning to read.