Reading Foundations to Reading Linking Study and Recommendations
by the Assessment Services Team, Scantron Corporation

The Performance Series (PS) K-2 Reading Foundations exam was specifically designed to address the early- and pre-reading skills that prepare students for complex reading comprehension at higher grade levels, where there is a greater emphasis on critical thinking skills. Because evaluating foundational reading skills requires assessment of a different constructs, Reading Foundations was developed as a separate exam from PS Reading for Grades 2–9.

Like PS Reading, Reading Foundations is administered in a computer-adaptive testing environment. In addition, the Reading Foundations environment supports young students throughout the assessment process by integrating rich images and on-demand audio. This allows emergent readers to demonstrate their reading ability and content knowledge.

While Reading and Reading Foundations are two separate exams within Performance Series, steps were taken during the field-test phase of the Reading Foundations exam to link the scores to the Reading scale. This allows both for comparison of scaled scores, as well as tracking growth, across the two exams.

A question that often arises from Scantron clients is when to transition students from Reading Foundations to Reading. The information contained within this study provides educators with assistance in making that determination.

PS Reading Foundations and Reading Exams

The skills measured, as well as the format of the passages and items, are the key differences between PS Reading Foundations and Reading. Table 1 shows the content areas and key skills measured by the Reading Foundations and Reading exams.

Table 1. Reading Foundations and Reading Testlet Definitions

Reading Foundations Reading
Testlet Key Skills % of Exam Testlet Key Skills % of Exam
Phonological Awareness
  • Identify, blend, substitute phonemes
  • Count and blend syllables
~25% Vocabulary Understand and use grade-appropriate words 24%-28%
  • Decode and spell words
  • Identify letters, letter and sound correspondence
~25% Long Passage
Understand overall idea of passage while identifying key points
Understand and use grade-appropriate words Interpret words in context ~25%
Short narrative with comprehension of story elements
Text Comprehension
  • Low level: concepts of printed word
  • High level: basic word comprehension
  • Informational topic (e.g., history or wildlife)
  • All passage testlets assess literal, inferential, and critical thinking skills

The Reading Foundations content areas of phonological awareness, phonics, and text comprehension assess basic skills needed for a developing reader. The Reading exam focuses on passage comprehension and critical thinking. The 2nd grade skills included in the text comprehension testlet in Reading Foundations provide a transition towards reading as the student is expected to read and comprehend informational texts without audio assistance.

Validity of Performance Series Reading Foundations

Concurrent validity evaluates the relationship between measures administered during the same time period (typically within a 1-2 week period). Predictive validity evaluates the degree to which one measure can predict the outcome or performance on a second measure administered at a different time (e.g., predicting Spring performance based on Fall performance). Between the years 2002 and 2015, PS Reading was found to be valid in relation to 27 different state and national tests (as demonstrated through both concurrent and predictive validity studies conducted with Scantron clients). Reading Foundations differs from Reading in terms of the item and passage layout as well as in the skills being measured. Specifically, Reading Foundations is focused on assessing foundational skills needed for reading and comprehending language. As such, the goal of this study was to directly investigate the concurrent and predictive validity of Reading Foundations in relation to Reading.

Study Data

The data for this study included PS Reading Foundations and Reading exam results from Fall 2014 through Fall 2015 (Fall, Spring, Fall testing windows). This large dataset covered all grades and included 2,326,791 student scores over the three testing windows.

Scatter graph showing relationship between Reading Foundations and ReadingValidity Evidence

As a natural part of evaluating the relationship between Reading Foundations and Reading, a scatterplot was created that made Reading Foundations Spring Grade 1 the x-axis and Reading Fall Grade 2 the y axis. The resulting graph (shown in Figure 1) revealed information about both Reading Foundations and Reading and when each is most appropriate for students.

A vertical line was added to the graph where the Reading Foundations scaled score equals 1800. This 1800 scaled score was found to divide the relationship into two parts:

  • Left side: flat with little rise
  • Right side: steep with a prominent rise showing that an increase in the Reading Foundations scaled score corresponds to an increase in the Reading scaled score.

The concurrent and predictive validity correlations between Reading Foundations and Reading were evaluated for multiple testing windows and grade levels. The relationship was also separately examined for students with low Reading Foundations scores (≤ 1800) versus students with high Reading Foundations scores (> 1800).

The results of the concurrent and predictive validity analyses can be seen in Table 2. The predictive correlations were generally quite strong, ranging from .687 to .730. The concurrent validity correlations in the Fall and Spring of Grade 2 were similar in magnitude and suggested that the constructs measured by Reading Foundations and Reading are strongly related.

Table 2. Concurrent and Predictive Validity Correlations between Reading Foundations and Reading by Testing Window and Grade

Reading Foundations  Reading     Reading Foundations Score ≤ 1800 Reading Foundations Score > 1800 (P) predictive validity correlation; (C) concurrent validity correlation *Completed Reading test within 2 weeks of Reading Foundations to avoid learning bias 
Window and Grade Window and Grade
Validity Corr.  N Corr.
Fall Gr. 1
Spr Gr. 1
 .687(P) 715
 .358  275  .607
Spr Gr. 1
Fall Gr. 2
 .698(P)  2,037  .210  8,134  .659
Fall Gr. 2 Spr Gr. 2 5,123
.730 (P)
Fall Gr. 2 Fall Gr. 2* 3,581
2, 490
Spr Gr. 2 Spr Gr. 2* 2,280

However, a clear difference emerged when the correlations were calculated separately for the Reading Foundations high versus low scorers. The correlations between Reading Foundations and Reading, both within and across testing windows, ranged from .180 to .358 when Reading Foundations scores were less than or equal to 1800. By comparison, Reading Foundations high scorers (Reading Foundations > 1800) had observed correlations that ranged from .607 to .731. These findings indicate that Reading Foundations and Reading are, in fact, measuring different constructs in reading ability, and that Reading Foundations is a more appropriate assessment for use with early and emerging readers.

Transition between Reading Foundations and Reading

One goal of this study was to provide educators with score guidelines for when a student is ready to transition from Reading Foundations to Reading. A review of the foundational reading standards indicates that Reading Foundations measures basic skills needed to become a successful reader. Once a student has become proficient in these basic skills, the student is ready for the Reading test.

As previously noted, scores from the two tests were linked to the same score scale. Therefore, it can be said that students who score at or below 1800 are scoring in the foundational reading zone. There also exists overlap between Reading Foundations and Reading where both tests are equally appropriate (2000 to 2250).

There are three main questions that arise regarding the transition from Reading Foundations to Reading:

  • What Reading Foundations score in Spring of Grade 1 is recommended for a student to move to the Reading test in the Fall of Grade 2?
  • What Reading Foundations score in Fall of Grade 2 is recommended for a student to move to the Reading test in Spring Grade 2?
  • At what score on Reading during Fall of Grade 2 should a teacher also consider administering the Reading Foundations test?

The best approach to address these questions is to review Table 2 and consider the implications for detecting growth.

Growth and Transition Evidence

As discussed above, when the relationship between performance on Reading Foundations and Reading is not strong (i.e., when students score at or below 1800 on Reading Foundations), then growth on Reading Foundations equates to little gain on Reading. Therefore, the student is better served continuing on the Reading Foundations test so the growth captured accurately reflects the learning that is taking place.

Spring Grade 1 to Fall Grade 2 example: Suppose a student completed the Reading Foundations test in the Spring of Grade 1 and then proceeded to complete the Reading test in the Fall of Grade 2. If the student scored below the 1800 threshold on Reading Foundations in the Spring, it is likely that s/he would struggle when taking the Reading test in the Fall. This can be seen in Figure 1 where most students who scored at or below 1800 on Reading Foundations in Grade 1 received similar scores on Reading during fall of Grade 2. A much stronger positive relationship emerges once we move above the 1800 threshold and confirms the 1800 rule for the Spring-to-Fall comparison.

Fall Grade 2 to Spring Grade 2 example: The Fall Grade 2 Reading Foundations to Spring Grade 2 Reading relationship provided evidence that students show great growth in reading skill during the 2nd grade school year. Students who scored 1502 on Reading Foundations in the Fall of Grade 2 were predicted to score 1816 on Reading in the Spring. Most students who completed the Reading test in the Spring of Grade 2 scored above the 1800 score threshold. The growth evaluation found that 96% of students were ready for the Reading test by Spring Grade 2.

Fall Grade 2 concurrent validity example: Scores for Fall Reading Foundations and Reading were matched to produce a sample of students who completed both tests within two weeks of each other. The comparison of Fall Grade 2 students revealed similar trends as the Spring-to-Fall analysis discussed above. It was difficult to capture the relationship between Reading Foundations and Reading for those who scored below 1800 as most students in that range struggled with the Reading test. These results, along with the evidence provided in Table 2, support the 1800-scoring rule of thumb for moving from Reading Foundations to Reading, and that students scoring at or below 1800 on Reading in the Fall should consider taking Reading Foundations.

Transition Guidelines

Based on the evidence discussed above and supporting work, most students are ready for the Reading exam by Spring of Grade 2. However, the following recommendations (and Figure 2 below) can be used to assist in determining the appropriate exam for students:

  • Students who score above 1800 on Reading Foundations in Spring Grade 1 (beyond the standard error of measurement or SEM) are ready to take Reading in the Fall of Grade 2.
  • Students who do not score above 1800 (beyond the SEM) on Reading should consider taking Reading Foundations as well.

For most students, the SEM on the Reading Foundations test is around 62 points. This would establish the target zones shown in Figure 2 for educators to reference.

Figure 2. PS Reading Foundations Transition Guidelines: Target Zones

Chart showing transition scores between Reading Foundations and Reading

How Can Scantron Help?

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