The data in this study were collected from a subset (1,779) of the sample (140,000) of fourth-graders who participated in the NAEP reading assessment during the early spring of 2002. The target student sample size for the oral reading sample was a fraction of the fourth-graders targeted for the main NAEP reading study.
The fourth-graders who participated in the oral reading study represented 84 percent of the students who had been identified to participate in the main NAEP reading assessment with the oral reading study. Of the 16 percent of students who did not participate, 6 percent were students with disabilities (SD) or English language learners (ELL) who would not have been able to participate meaningfully in the study.
The 2002 oral reading study involved the computer-assisted collection of digital recordings of students reading aloud. In both 1992 and 2002, data were collected in individual, one-on-one assessment sessions between a student and a trained interviewer. The 2002 administration was enhanced by the use of computer-assisted collection and digital recording.
Each individual session consisted of an introduction by the administrator and an oral reading demonstration by the student. During the introduction, each student was welcomed and made familiar with the session protocol. The student was then asked to read aloud a brief passage written at approximately a second-grade reading level. The intention was to familiarize students with the digital recording process and to enable the interviewer to determine whether the student should be asked to read aloud from the more difficult assessment passage later in the interview.
Students who seemed to have considerable trouble reading aloud from the less difficult passage were thanked for reading the screening passage and excluded from further participation.
If the administrator decided that the student read the excerpt from "The Box in the Barn" with difficulty—i.e., the student produced a word-by-word delivery, halted between words, was unable to recognize many of the words, took more than six minutes to read the passage, or reached a point of frustration and gave up—the session was stopped. However, less than one percent of the students selected for participation were excluded for these reasons.
"The Box in the Barn," the story from which the oral reading passage was excerpted, is one of the easiest passages in the fourth-grade NAEP reading assessment. The participants in this study had an opportunity to read "The Box in the Barn" during the main assessment. After the screening process, students were given another opportunity to read the entire story silently. When the students finished, the supervisor handed them, one at a time, printed copies of a set of three comprehension questions. The purpose of the three orally presented comprehension questions—which were not scored or evaluated—was to refamiliarize the students with the passage, which they had encountered in the main NAEP reading assessment. This gave them an opportunity to develop interest in the passage and the task at hand. The preparation process took 30 minutes or less.
Students could read the printed questions while they listened with a headset to a recording of each question as it was read aloud. Students were given time to think about their answers, but if no answers seemed forthcoming, the interviewer could prompt for a response. If a student missed the recorded instructions, the interviewer was permitted to replay them. Students who could not answer the questions were given permission to go back to the story for clarification.
Finally, the supervisor showed the students a 198-word excerpt taken from the passage "The Box in the Barn" and asked them to read this out loud. If students asked about the desired reading rate, they were told to read as if they were reading to someone who had never heard the story before.
If the students demonstrated difficulty with the task, the interviewer was instructed to say, "Just do the best you can." If students asked for help with pronunciation during the reading, the interviewer was instructed to say, "If you can't figure out a word, you can guess or skip it and go on."
When the students finished, they returned to their regular classroom.