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Gauging language growth in sentence-level writing (Reno & McMaster, 2024)

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posted on 2024-01-29, 15:08 authored by Emily A. Reno, Kristen L. McMaster

Purpose: Picture–word writing curriculum-based measures (PW CBM-Ws) are technically sound, formative measures of descriptive, sentence-level writing but cannot estimate underlying linguistic skills. The purpose of this exploratory alternative scoring investigation was to apply metrics from language sample analysis (LSA) to PW CBM-Ws as a complementary measure of underlying language skills in beginning writers’ sentence-level writing.

Method: LSA metrics were applied to 104 typically developing first through third graders’ PW CBM-W samples across fall and spring semesters. Factorial analyses of variance with post hoc Bonferroni pairwise comparisons were applied after obtaining alternate-form reliability and criterion-related validity estimates.

Results: Analyses revealed reliable discrimination between grades and significant growth between fall and spring semesters for three LSA metrics: mean length of T-unit in words, mean length of T-unit in morphemes, and number of different words. While mean length of T-unit in words and morphemes demonstrated evidence of discrimination and growth in first grade only, number of different words showed evidence of reliable discrimination and growth in first and third grades.

Conclusions: Mean length of T-unit in words, mean length of T-unit in morphemes, and number of different words showed evidence of adequate criterion-related validity, discrimination among grades, and sensitivity to growth when calculated using PW CBM-W samples to gauge underlying linguistic skills in first- and third-grade students. Implications and future directions for research are discussed.

Supplemental Material S1. PW CBM-W items.

Supplemental Material S2. Excerpt from a student PW CMB-W sample.

Reno, E. A., & McMaster, K. L. (2024). Measuring linguistic growth in sentence-level writing curriculum-based measures: Exploring complementary scoring methods. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 55(2), 529–544.


Data were obtained through support by Grant R324A130144 from the Institute of Education Sciences awarded to the University of Minnesota. The first author receives funding through the National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention as a doctoral training scholar; this project was supported by Grant H325H190003 from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.