Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Christopher H. Skinner

Committee Members

R. Steve McCallum, Sherry K. Bain, Richard A. Saudargas


Numerous studies have shown that words correct per minute (WC/M) is a valid and reliable measure that correlates highly with standardized reading assessments (Marston, 1989). The current series of studies begins to investigate why WC/M and other rate measures correlate so strongly with these assessments. The goal across all three studies was to parse the variance in general reading development accounted for by the measure of reading speed.

In the first study, researchers found that reading speed taken from WC/M accounted for a significant amount of the variance with the Broad Reading Cluster (BRC) of the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III Ach.; Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001) across 4th-, 5th-, and 10th-grade students (Williams, Chapter 2, this dissertation). Results also indicated that converting reading speed to a rate measure (WC/M) accounted for an additional amount of variance. In the second study, researchers performed similar analyses with reading comprehension rate (RCR; comprehension questions correct/time required to read) (Williams, Chapter 3, this dissertation). Results from this study also indicated that reading speed accounted for much of the variance with the BRC.

In the third study, researchers extended these research findings by analyzing 4th- and 5th-grade students’ time required to read, WC, WC/M, highlighted punctuation correct per minute (HPC/M; punctuation highlighted correct/time required to read), and HPC with the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) (Williams, Chapter 4, this dissertation). Results showed that both rate measures significantly correlated with the TCAP across both grade-levels. Non-hierarchal analysis results indicated that reading speed taken from HPC/M accounted for most of the variance in TCAP scores across 4th- and 5th-grade students. Additionally, reading speed from 5th- grade students’ WC/M accounted for most of the variance in the TCAP scores. However, WC (the numerator) accounted for most of the variance among 4th-grade students.

The results from these studies indicate that the time required to read (the denominator) can account for much of the variance with standardized reading assessments. Overall, results suggest that reading speed is what may account for the validity and sensitivity of reading rate measures.

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