New Intervention Shows Signs of Improving Reading Fluency In Middle Schoolers, Says Latest NWEA Study

Portland, Ore. — Oct. 12, 2023 — K-12 assessment and research organization NWEA released today results of a yearlong study examining the effectiveness of a reading fluency intervention targeting struggling middle school readers from historically marginalized populations or those living in poverty. The study was funded by the Reading Reimagined program of the Advanced Education Research and Development Fund (AERDF, pronounced like air-diff), and provided a specific reading fluency protocol along with professional learning to sixth grade teachers in a large, urban U.S. school district in 2022-23.

The findings point to strong outcomes, including:

  • Students who scored below the 50th percentile on the Capti Assess Reading Efficiency subtest demonstrated a statistically significant positive difference between the pre- and post-tests after experiencing the protocol.
  • Teachers noted observing a positive impact from the protocol on students’ reading abilities, specifically for those students who previously performed below the grade-level expectations for reading.

“Reading fluency is essential for effective reading comprehension at any age, but it’s especially critical once students go from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn,” said Laura Hansen, Director of Academic Services at NWEA. “Unfortunately many students leave elementary school still not proficient in reading, and that creates a significant barrier to their ability to learn across subjects. Most middle and high school teachers are not trained in the teaching of foundational reading skills (e.g., phonemic awareness, phonics) to address this problem.”

At the center of the study was a new, easy-to-implement protocol for secondary school teachers to use to help increase reading fluency of their students. What makes the protocol easy-to-implement is that teachers can use it with text from any subject matter and do not need any training in reading pedagogy. While the study focused on grade 6, the protocol is designed for use from grade six on. The protocol leveraged Repeated Reading, as well as language strategies at the word and sentence level, and student engagement via culturally relevant passages and goal setting. Most formal reading instruction ends once students leave elementary school, but national data show that almost 70% of eighth graders are not considered proficient in reading based on 2022 test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. Having researched tools like the protocol featured in this study is a step forward in addressing the challenge of struggling readers past the elementary years, especially those from historically marginalized populations and/or those living in poverty.

“Reading Reimagined is urgently pursuing solutions for foundational literacy skill instruction for students in grades 3-8, who often still need, but rarely receive, ongoing direct instructional support to achieve lasting reading proficiency,” said Reading Reimagined’s Executive Director Rebecca Kockler. “NWEA’s fluency protocol is one of many tools that Reading Reimagined has already and will continue to make freely available to all educators seeking to support their students’ literacy development. We are excited to see it being used in classrooms across the country.”

Read the full report at

About NWEA

NWEA® (a division of HMH) is a mission-driven organization that supports students and educators in more than 146 countries through research, assessment solutions, policy and advocacy services, professional learning and school improvement services that fight for equity, drive classroom impact and push for systemic change in our educational communities. Visit to learn more about how we’re partnering with educators to help all kids learn.

Advanced Education Research & Development Fund (“AERDF” pronounced air-diff) is a national nonprofit R & D organization launched in 2021.

AERDF builds ambitious, inclusive three to five year programs with educators, researchers and developers, aimed at tackling major and persistent teaching and learning challenges that disproportionately affect Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty in grades Pre-K-12.

Each AERDF program builds on existing community-driven evidence and expertise as well as learning science to translate fundamental insights into usable knowledge, useful practices, equitable approaches and transformative tools for education practitioners and students. EF+Math was launched successfully by Dr. Melina Uncapher in 2019, and served as a demonstration program that tested the core theory of action that helped launch AERDF, which has since launched two additional programs in 2021 — Assessment for Good and Reading Reimagined. Additional programs are also under consideration, for this year and beyond.

FOR AERDF Contact: Yasmene Mumby, Communications Director,

FOR NWEA Contact: Simona Beattie, Sr. Manager, Public Relations – NWEA Division, or 971.361.9526