Measuring Students' Accuracy, Rate & Prosody Levels Through Assessments

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  • 0:04 Defining Reading
  • 1:04 Measuring Accuracy and Rate
  • 1:39 Oral Fluency Assessment
  • 2:35 Calculating Oral Fluency
  • 3:42 Measuring Prosody
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Measuring a student's reading requires a close look at several components, such as accuracy, rate, and prosody. What are these things, and how are they assessed? This lesson outlines ways to select or design an assessment that measures these components of reading.

Defining Reading

Have you ever sat down and read with a child? You may have noticed their rate, accuracy, and tempo were a bit off. Why is this? Reading is a nuanced skill that requires students to use several components. Successful readers are able to read the words correctly at an even pace. They need to have a well-developed prosody level, things like pitch, tempo, and intonation.

Readers need to do more than say words when they read. Their ability to read with accuracy, a good rate, and expression, otherwise known as fluency, is necessary for students to comprehend. If a student reads in a choppy, too-slow, or uneven pace, it can take away from their ability to comprehend. When readers are fluent they read words by sight while keeping an even pace and paying attention to text, not pausing to decode words.

How do teachers know whether their students are doing all these things during reading? Luckily, there's actually a whole toolbox of assessments to determine a student's accuracy, rate, and prosody level. Let's take a look.

Measuring Accuracy and Rate

The speed at which a student reads is considered the reading rate, while accuracy refers to the number of words read correctly. Typically, educators measure these two skills at the same time. The most common way to do this is to give an Oral Fluency Assessment (OFA).

An OFA is used to measure the number of words a student correctly reads in one minute, referred to as word count per minute, or WCPM. A pre-leveled text is read by a student and their performance can determine the student's accuracy and rate, or the amount of words accurately read per minute. Let's see an example.

Oral Fluency Assessment

Blake is a seasoned teacher who specializes in reading instruction. He asks one of his students, Adam, to sit down in a quiet part of the classroom. Blake has selected three texts for Adam to read from, each on Adam's grade level. If Adam struggles with these texts, or reads with obvious fluency and no errors, Blake is prepared to adjust the level with alternate texts. Blake asks Adam to begin reading aloud and starts timing at his first word. Blake watches the text as Adam reads to monitor for accuracy. Adam reads the 300-word section fluently without any errors.

Blake then repeats the process with another student, Elana. Elana reads the 300-word section but says many of the words incorrectly. Blake records these incorrect words, or miscues. When the minute is up, he counts the number of words read correctly. He repeats this process with two other books, then takes the median score to determine accuracy and reading rate.

Calculating Oral Fluency

Blake uses an OFA to measure reading officially three times a year. In the time in between, he measures a student's accuracy throughout the year to determine if his students are making progress. He uses the same procedure, but instead of limiting the time, he allows the student to complete a small book or passage. He still keeps track of total words read and miscues, then uses the following formula to determine accuracy:

(total words read - total errors) / total words read, x 100 to get a percentage

For example, Adam read a book that had 120 words and miscued 24 times. That equation will look like this:

120 - 24 = 96

96 / 120 = 0.8

0.8 x 100 = 80%

Blake then knows Adam is reading that level with 80% accuracy.

A few other tests that measure oral fluency are DIBELS, Gray Oral Reading Test, and the Curriculum Based Measure. These systems measure and assess oral reading growth over time much in the same way an OFA does.

Measuring Prosody

To measure prosody, teachers can use a tool that scales a student's level of phrasing and expression when reading aloud. Like the oral fluency assessments we just saw, students read samples of text and their performance is rated on a scale of 1-4. Take a look at the criteria in the table below. As you can see, levels 4 and 3 are considered fluent and 2 and 1 considered non-fluent, with the former two involving complete sentences of at least three or four words and the latter two being choppy and even bordering on incoherent.

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