The 2018 NAEP Oral Reading Fluency Study

Oral reading fluency—the ability to read aloud with appropriate speed, accuracy, and expression—is a reliable and easily accessible indicator of overall reading competence and a strong marker of progress in learning to read. Its assessment has become one of the primary means of determining which elementary school students are on track toward meeting state reading standards and which students would benefit from additional services and intervention.

The 2018 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Oral Reading Fluency Study was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to better understand the relationship between oral reading skills and reading comprehension for fourth-grade students. It also aimed to gain further insights on students performing at the lowest end of the achievement spectrum on the NAEP reading assessment (below NAEP Basic), about one-third of U.S. public school fourth graders.

Students' oral reading fluency and foundational skills for fluency (word reading and phonological decoding) were measured digitally using the automatic speech analysis and scoring system.

Key Findings

Image of report coverResults from the study show:

  • a consistent and positive relationship between NAEP reading assessment performance and oral reading fluency and foundational skills;
  • a noticeable variation in oral reading fluency and foundational skills among students performing below NAEP Basic; and
  • an inadequate development of foundational skills necessary for fluent oral reading and comprehension among students performing below NAEP Basic.

AIR researchers led the analysis and authored the report in collaboration with leading experts of reading and literacy. The findings of this report provide (a) additional understanding of reading skills of students performing below NAEP Basic, a performance level that is not described in the NAEP reading assessment framework, and (b) important contributions to the discussion of reading skill development of young children.