Growth in Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability from Grades 1 through 9

By Holahan, J., Rock, D.A ., Kirsch, I.S., Yamamoto, K., Ferrer, E., Michaels, R., Marchione, K., Shaywitz, B.A ., Shaywitz, S.E.
Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment (in press).


We systematically assessed the relationships between growth of four components of verbal ability: Information, Similarities, Vocabulary, and Comprehension subtests of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale-Revised, to longitudinal growth from grades 1 to 9 of the Woodcock—Johnson  Psycho-Educational  Battery Passage Comprehension subtest while controlling for Word Identification and Word Attack, using multilevel growth models on a sample of 414 children. Growth was assessed over all grades (1 to 9), and separately for early grades (1 to 5), and later grades (5 to 9). Over all grades, growth in Word Identification had a substantial standardized loading to Passage Comprehension, and all four verbal abilities had smaller, but significant standardized loadings to Passage Comprehension (p < .05), with Information and Vocabulary having slightly higher loadings than Similarities and Comprehension. For early grades, results were similar to the overall results, with the exception of Vocabulary, which had a non significant loading to Passage Comprehension. For later grades, Word Identification again had the largest, but substantially smaller standardized loading on Passage Comprehension, and standardized loadings of all four verbal abilities were statistically significant with Vocabulary and WISC-R Comprehension having appreciably higher loadings than in the previous analyses. Conversation- and interaction-based intervention and instruction in oral language in general, and vocabulary in particular throughout early childhood and continuing throughout the school years, combined with evidence-based  instruction that systematically develops the skills of phonologic awareness, decoding, word reading, fluency, and comprehension in school, may provide a pathway to reducing the achievement gap in reading.

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