Struggling Adolescent Readers: Profiles and Growth for the Middle Grades



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Background: Literacy affords many benefits that impact an individual’s access to learning, decision making, life choices, and independence. Adolescent students with reading difficulties experience significant limitations to postsecondary opportunities due to poor literacy skills, and the lack of adequate supports for reading instruction at the secondary level exacerbates reading challenges. This study addressed reading performance trends between subgroups and determined the impact of tiered methods of support through reading intervention programming for adolescent struggling readers. Purpose: The goals of this analysis were (a) to understand what percentage of grade 6 students who were reading below grade level remain reading below grade level by grade 8 within a large suburban school district in Texas; (b) to examine the relationship between students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) in reading and students who qualify for 504 services for dyslexia; and (c) to determine if evidence-based reading intervention programming that offers explicit, systematic, direct instruction in reading improves fluency rates. Method: This quantitative study used a causal-comparative design to determine percentages of students reading below grade level over a three-year period. In a group comparison design, STAAR Reading scores were compared between the selected subgroups of students. In a single-case research design, students with varying reading difficulties were provided McGraw-Hill’s SRA Corrective Reading B2 reading curriculum targeting reading fluency for 13-weeks. Results: Overall, 63.17% of the 543-student sample entered grade 6 reading below grade level and remained reading below grade level by grade 8. Independent sample t-tests showed students with dyslexia outperformed students with SLD consistently on STAAR. Paired sample t-tests showed strong correlation between the 49-student subgroup population and statistically significant higher STAAR scale scores on grade 8 than grade 6. Pretest and posttest measures before and after the single-case design intervention phase showed statistical significance on grade level reading skills. Conclusion: Appropriate reading practices for adolescent struggling readers are necessary. An improvement science approach to target literacy intervention in the middle grades can guide school districts towards continuous improvement. Network Improvement Communities can mold multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) frameworks through small-scale Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles targeted at specific adolescent struggling reader profiles.



Adolescent literacy, Adolescent literacy intervention, Multi-tiered systems of support, Middle school reading intervention, Response to reading intervention, Dyslexia intervention, And specific learning disability intervention