This report summarizes the key perspectives of the National Reading Panel (NRP) report published in 2000. Although this report appeared 25 years ago, the very comprehensive and authoritative nature of it still makes itrelevant today. We emphasize this report also because CBMSkills includes three of the fundamental components of effective reading assessment and instruction: Phonemic Awareness (PA) with three tasks, Word Identification (WID) with seven tasks, and Oral Reading Fluency (ORF), with 17 passages per grade level, 1-5. Therefore, we use this summary as not only justification for our assessment system, but also as support for teachers in providing evidence-based practices.
The NRP meta-analysis focused on 52 published studies meeting their criteria for assessing the impact of Phonemic Awareness (PA) training on reading outcomes. This skill involves recognizing and manipulating phonemes, which are the smallest units of spoken language (with the English language having 41 phonemes). Phonemes combine to form syllables and words. A limited number of words have only one phoneme, such as a or oh, though most words consist of a blend of two to four phonemes.
The studies in the NRP meta-analysis covered various forms of PA training, including phoneme isolation, identification, categorization, blending, segmentation, and deletion. The findings revealed that PA training is highly effective in teaching phonemic awareness skills and significantly improved students’ ability to manipulate phonemes, read words, spell words, and comprehend text. The effects remained strong over time and were consistent across different levels of learners and various training methods. Importantly, both blending and segmenting were the most effective (both included in CBMSkills, along with identification). Other key findings and conclusions from the NRP analysis include the following:
- Effectiveness of PA Training: PA training resulted in substantial improvements in phonemic awareness, with effect sizes being significant, both immediately after training, and over the long term.
- Impact on Reading and Spelling: PA training positively influenced reading and spelling abilities. Students who received PA training demonstrated better word reading, pseudoword reading, and reading comprehension skills. However, PA training did not impact performance in mathematics, indicating that the effects were domain specific.
- Influential Factors: Programs that focused on teaching one or two PA skills were more effective than those teaching multiple skills. Teaching sounds with letters helped acquire PA skills more effectively. Small group instruction yielded better results than individual or large group instruction.
- Student Characteristics: Disabled readers had smaller gains in phonemic awareness compared to at-risk students or normally progressing readers. Younger students showed larger improvements in acquiring PA skills than older children. English-speaking students showed greater gains in PA compared to those learning in other languages.
- Transfer to Reading and Spelling: The type of test used to measure reading and spelling influenced the size of the effect. Training that focused on specific PA manipulations yielded better reading outcomes. Teaching PA skills with letters also presented improved transfer to reading and spelling.
- Methodology: Rigorous study designs produced stronger effects. Random assignment and fidelity to treatment procedures contributed to larger effect sizes.
- Further Considerations: PA training is crucial for reading and spelling development. Although results are suggestive, the impact of moderator variables needs further research. Furthermore, attention must be paid to dialectal variations and the impact of English as a second language. Teaching letters alongside concurrently with teaching sounds (PA) is also important for successful reading instruction.
In summary, PA measured at the beginning of kindergarten is one of the two best predictors of how well children will learn to read. The NRP findings highlight the significance of explicit phonemic awareness instruction in fostering essential skills for reading and spelling. Effective PA training involves systematically teaching phonemic manipulation skills with letters, focusing on specific skills, and considering student characteristics and needs. The findings emphasize the importance of integrating phonemic awareness training within phonics instruction to optimize reading success.
In the analysis of 38 phonics studies, several significant findings and recommendations were published. The panel’s analysis of systematic phonics instruction’s effectiveness was drawn from studies conducted in diverse classrooms with typical teachers and students from various backgrounds. In general, phonics, the approach of systematically teaching the relationship between letters and sounds (progressing from basic to complex rules), emerged as a crucial element. A moderate effect size was reported: “Findings provided solid support for the conclusion that systematic phonics instruction makes a bigger contribution to children’s growth in reading than alternative programs providing unsystematic or no phonics instruction” (p. 2-92).
- Synthetic phonics (e.g., blending) instruction was effective as well as larger unit phonics (using larger subparts of words) and various systematic phonics instructional programs.
- Phonics programs were effective whether used within individual tutoring programs, small group, and whole class.
- Phonics programs are best introduced to younger students, in Kindergarten and Grade 1, rather than waiting to use this approach with older students.
- “Systematic phonics instruction is significantly more effective than non-phonics instruction in helping to prevent reading difficulties among at risk students and in helping to remediate reading difficulties in disabled readers” (p. 2-94).
- Systematic phonics instruction was effective in improving children’s spelling and their application of the alphabetic system of English (particularly with younger children in kindergarten and Grade 1).
- Over time, such instruction has demonstrated success, with various programs proving effective for children of different ages, abilities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- The concept of “intensive” phonics lacks clarity, raising questions about program duration and progression. Teachers’ role and training are pivotal; scripted programs can standardize instruction but might dampen enthusiasm. Effective teacher preparation is necessary, given the variations in program sophistication.
- A single phonics approach may not suit all students. Diverse skill levels in early grades necessitate tailored instruction, requiring flexibility in grouping and pacing. However, many phonics programs follow fixed sequences.
- Integration with broader reading instruction is crucial, as phonics isn’t a standalone program. Balanced reading entails controlled decoding practice, exposure to quality literature, and focusing on comprehension and vocabulary. While phonics is essential, it should not overshadow other vital components.
In the end, however, systematic, and explicit phonics instruction enhances reading proficiency, particularly for young learners. It aids in decoding words, improving word recognition, and ultimately fostering overall reading comprehension. Five key components of effective phonics instruction include phonemic awareness, phonemic segmentation and blending, phoneme-grapheme correspondence, irregular word recognition, and decoding skills. Teachers are encouraged to integrate these components into their teaching strategies, focusing on direct instruction, practice, and feedback. Finally, phonics programs should be integrated with other reading instruction and educators should exercise caution when implementing phonics instruction.
Oral Reading Fluency
This meta-analysis reviewed 77 studies on repeated and guided repeated reading, as well as 14 studies encouraging students to read more, including sustained silent reading and variants of this practice. More important than the specific findings, however, was their overall conception of the role of fluency in reading development.
In this report, fluency, was defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression and it has often been overlooked in reading instruction, with early emphasis placed on word recognition proficiency. In their summary of the research, fluency was deemed crucial for successful reading comprehension. The report examined the changing concepts of fluency and the effectiveness of instructional approaches to its development.
- Their definition of fluency was not just about accurate word recognition but also involved the speed and ease with which words are recognized, as well as proper interpretation and expression. Thus, automaticity was viewed as important, reflecting the ability to process information effortlessly and quickly due to extensive practice. Fluent readers not only recognize words automatically but also allocate cognitive resources efficiently, allowing for simultaneous word recognition and comprehension. In the end, the NRP noted that reading fluency falls along a continuum rather than as a binary distinction between fluent and non-fluent.
- Effective methods included guided repeated oral reading practice and independent or recreational reading programs. While the former approach improved word recognition speed and expression, the latter increased exposure to diverse texts, contributing to overall reading proficiency. In essence, fluency was an essential component of skilled reading that demands attention and practice in educational settings. Other practices, such as informal reading inventories and running records were viewed as a gauge of fluency but only as supplemental to instructional strategies.
- Guided oral reading practice was effective in improving reading fluency and overall reading achievement. The research indicated that such procedures consistently had a positive impact on word recognition, fluency, and comprehension across various test instruments and grade levels. The meta-analysis of guided oral reading practice showed a moderate average effect size of 0.41, suggesting that these procedures have a notable impact on reading achievement. Repeated reading had a clear positive effect on readers up to Grade 4 and on students with reading difficulties throughout high school.
- The interventions had varying effects on different reading outcomes, with the highest impact on reading accuracy (effect size of 0.55), followed by reading fluency (effect size of 0.44), and finally reading comprehension (effect size of 0.35). Combining these reading outcome measures yielded a mean effect size of 0.50, supporting the effectiveness of guided oral reading instruction.
- The findings suggested that teachers should prioritize fluency development in their instruction and regularly assess fluency using various measures. Guided oral reading practice was more effective than strategies promoting independent silent reading. The research highlighted the need for further investigation into the specific elements of guided reading practice that contribute to improved fluency, as well as the long-term effects of different instructional practices on fluency development. Rigorous research is also necessary to clarify the impact of independent reading programs on various reading outcomes across different student populations and age groups.
CBMSkills is based on three of the big five ideas of the National Reading Panel (NRP): Phonemic Awareness (PA), Word Identification (WID), and Oral Reading Fluency (ORF). These skill areas are fundamental to the development of proficient reading, so that teachers can be assured students can concurrently, understand vocabulary and comprehend text, the final two big ideas from the NRP.
 National Reading Panel (2000). Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and its Implications for Reading Instruction. Author.