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Preventing and Remediating Learning Disabilities

Progress Towards Understanding the Instructional Conditions Necessary for Remediating Reading Difficulties in Older ChildrenTorgesen, J. K., Rashotte, C. A., Alexander, A. W., Alexander, J., MacPhee, K.  This article is included as a chapter in Preventing and Remediating Reading Disabilities: Bringing Science to Scale, edited by Dr. Barbara Foorman (York Press, 2003)

This study examined the growth in reading skills of five groups of students. For the purposes of this summary we are going to focus on two of these groups which completed the Spell Read P.A.T.® intervention.

The graph below is taken from a presentation Dr. Joseph Torgesen made to the World Congress on Dyslexia in August 2002. It shows progress data from the first of these two sets of students consisting of 20 students enrolled in sixth or seventh grade and predominantly from working class families in suburban Baltimore. The mean age was 12 years (sixth grade) and 54% were receiving special education services.  The students received 100 hours of Spell Read P.A.T.®, consisting of 70 minute classes provided daily to groups of five students over approximately five months. The results of the treatment group are shown with pre-test scores (dark blue on bottom) and post-test scores (lighter blue on top).


Built on Science. Focused on Results.



How a student ranks relative to a random sample of 100 same-age peers.  If a student reads at the tenth percentile then he/she reads better that 9 and worse than 90 of those same-age peers.

Standard Score:

This measure is similar to percentile, ranking the student relative to his/her same-age peers.  A standard score of 100 is equal to the fiftieth percentile.  The “average” range is from a standard score of 92 – 108 (which is equal to the thirtieth – seventieth percentiles).

Effect Size:

This measures potency, or the speed with which the student’s scores improve from the beginning to the end of the intervention.  According to researchers, an effect size (ES) of .2 is small, .5 is medium, and .8 or greater is large.

Dr. Torgesen summarized the study results stating that “these children, who began the intervention with word level skills around the tenth percentile, attained scores for phonemic decoding, text reading accuracy and comprehension that were solidly in the average range, while reading fluency remained an area of relative impairment. However, it should be noted that very substantial gains (at least one standard deviation) were made in all areas of reading skill, and that, with the exception of reading fluency, these children had essentially “closed the gap” in reading ability with their same age classmates.”

The results of this set of students are compelling because they present evidence that older children who are severely reading disabled can experience significant gains in both their reading comprehension (ability to understand what was read) and fluency (ability to read at a reasonable rate, smoothly and without errors).  In addition, students achieved these gains rapidly, as evidenced by the effect size scores (see definition on previous page) that ranged from 1.3 to 3.8.

Preventing and Remediating Learning Disabilities Website