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Background: Writing proficiency facilitates higher achievement in educational and professional endeavors, yet the majority of students fail to meet national writing benchmarks before they graduate from high school. While attention and reading are known to contribute to writing skill development, most research on these relationships focuses on early elementary school years. Upper elementary school years mark a substantial leap in writing skill development, making it a critical period to study. Additionally, it is unclear how the attention-reading-writing relationship manifests among struggling readers, a population at risk for writing difficulties. Purpose: This project evaluated models of writing component skills among fourth-grade struggling readers. Specifically, the study examined 1) the relationship between attention symptoms, word reading, and reading comprehension, 2) the contribution of attention and reading to overall writing, and 3) the contribution of attention and reading to identified factors of writing. Method: Participants included 133 fourth-grade struggling readers from two southwestern U.S. cities who participated in a larger intervention study. Measures included the Strengths and Weaknesses of ADHD Symptoms and Normal Behavior (SWAN) for attention, the Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ-III) Letter-Word Identification test for word reading, the WJ-III Passage Comprehension test for reading comprehension, and the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) writing test for overall writing. STAAR writing samples were also scored on the 6 + 1 Trait writing model. Path analysis was used to evaluate the models of attention, reading, and writing. Confirmatory factor analysis was applied to examine the factor structure of writing across the 6 + 1 traits. Structural equation modeling was employed to evaluate the contributions of attention and reading to the identified writing factors. Results: In this sample of fourth-grade struggling readers, inattention and reading comprehension were the most consistent predictors of writing across analyses. Although inattention predicted writing, it did not predict word reading performance. Additionally, while reading comprehension was predictive of writing performance, word reading was not. Consistent with the literature, hyperactivity-impulsivity did not relate strongly with any academic outcomes. A unitary writing factor best characterized the writing of students in the sample. Conclusion: Findings largely replicated existing research on attention, reading, and writing, but extended the literature by focusing on fourth-grade struggling readers. Results indicated that higher-level academic skills had a greater impact on writing, which could suggest that as academic rigor increases in the upper elementary school grades, basic skills such as word reading are less predictive of success on complex tasks such as writing. Inattention and reading comprehension were the primary component skills found to impact writing. Focusing assessment and intervention efforts on building student skills in these areas may help to increase writing proficiency. The finding that a unitary writing factor was identified for fourth-grade struggling readers could influence the way in which writing instruction is delivered. Outcomes from this project have implications for educational practices that could help equip students with the writing proficiency required for educational and professional success.



Writing, Attention, Reading, Struggling Readers