Problems with Early Reading Tests: Confounded Statistical Analyses and Policy Recommendations

Problems with Early Reading Tests: Confounded Statistical Analyses and Policy Recommendations

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Problems with Early Reading Tests: Confounded Statistical Analyses and Policy Recommendations

Tests of early reading skills do not distinguish among rapid vs slow developing skills, referred to as constrained vs unconstrained skills (Paris, 2005). This creates problems for measurement and interpretation of reading development, especially when based on tests such as DIBELS and EGRA. As an example, the National Early Literacy Panel Report (2008) in the USA identified early predictors of reading achievement as good targets for instruction, and many of those skills are related to decoding. I suggest that the developmental trajectories of rapidly developing skills pose problems for traditional statistical analyses and policy making. Rapidly developing skills yield correlations with later reading success that change with learning so the predictive strengthsare temporary and unstable. The correlations are strong only briefly when children demonstrate partial learning of a skill that they will master completely later. Thus, correlations with rapidlydeveloping skills exaggerate the strength of the relation to later achievement, ignore the transient developmental window, and inflate effect sizes of interventions. I explain why these measurement problems should temper the use of early reading data to make decisions about curricula, ,materials, instruction, and policies.

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