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Oral Reading Fluency Assessment

It’s one of the best tools for reading instruction and assessment of student reading skills growth – oral reading fluency assessment. It’s simple to administer, we have them embedded into our progress monitoring tools at Spiral WarmUps, and they can be administered in a variety of settings (small group, whole class, online, formal, informal, etc).

In this quick reading research review, we’ll share the latest on oral reading fluency assessments, plus, you can download a free Oral Reading Fluency Assessment.

Research Summary for Oral Reading Fluency Assessments

We’re not going to dig deeply into the ins/outs of the research. Instead, let’s look at a quick recap of ORF (Oral Reading Fluency Assessments):

  • Using cutoff scores provides a reliable means for grouping students for instructional needs (Coulter, 2010).
  • Teachers are more likely to get false positives and false negatives (misinterpretations) when they use ORF assessments for more than simply finding cutoff scores (Coulter, 2010).
  • Words Correct Per Minute (WCPM) is a valid method for benchmarking student growth (Valencia, 2011).
  • WCPM does not fully align with comprehension skills in upper grades – starting with grade 6 (Valencia, 2011).
  • WCPM is a strong predictor of comprehension scores on standardized tests without directly assessing comprehension (Valencia, 2011).
  • Prosody is critical in gaining a deeper evaluation of comprehension, but “the subjectivity of judging students’ prosody makes it a difficult component of fluency to study” (Jan Hasbrouck).

An Oral Reading Fluency assessment is the quickest way to understand a student’s reading ability. When prosody (inflection and meaningful tone) is taken into consideration, oral reading fluency assessments give highly accurate predictions of students’ comprehension scores.

A Rubric for Oral Reading Fluency

In this article, we provide you with an actual oral reading fluency assessment. The rubric below is a means for categorizing student reading skills in order to make a plan for instruction. This rubric, actually a 4-point scale, was originally developed in 1992 by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the United States.

4FluentReads primarily in larger, meaningful phrase groups. Although some regressions, repetitions, and deviations from the text may be present, these do not appear to detract from the overall structure of the story. Preservation of the author’s syntax is consistent. some or most of the story is read with expressive interpretation.
3FluentReads primarily in three- or four-word phrase groups. Some small groupings may be present. however, the majority of phrasing seems appropriate and preserves the syntax of the author. Little or no expressive interpretation is present.
2Non-FluentReads primarily in two-word phrases with some three- or four-word groupings. Some word-by-word reading may be present. Word groupings may seem awkward and unrelated to the larger context of the sentence or passage
1Non-FluentReads primarily word-by-word. Occasional two-word or three-word phrases may occur but these are infrequent and/or do not preserve meaningful syntax.
Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) Assessment Scale


Coulter, G., Shavin, K., & Gichuru, M., 2010. Oral reading fluency: Accuracy of assessing errors and classification of readers using a 1-min timed reading sample. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, v54, 2009, 71-76.

Valencia, S.W., Smith, A.T., Reece, A.M., et al, 2011. Oral reading fluency assessment: Issues of construct, criterion, and consequential validity. Reading Research Quarterly, v45, Issue3, p 270-291





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