Reading and Writing

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 587–609 | Cite as

Subgroups of adult basic education learners with different profiles of reading skills

  • Charles A. MacArthur
  • Timothy R. Konold
  • Joseph J. Glutting
  • Judith A. Alamprese


The purpose of this study was to identify subgroups of adult basic education (ABE) learners with different profiles of skills in the core reading components of decoding, word recognition, spelling, fluency, and comprehension. The analysis uses factor scores of those 5 reading components from on a prior investigation of the reliability and construct validity of measures of reading component skills (MacArthur, Konold, Glutting, & Alamprese, 2010). In that investigation, confirmatory factor analysis found that a model with those 5 factors fit the data best and fit equally well for native and non-native English speakers. The study included 486 students, 334 born or educated in the United States (native) and 152 not born nor educated in the US (non-native) but who spoke English well enough to participate in English reading classes. The cluster analysis found an 8-cluster solution with good internal cohesion, external isolation, and replicability across subsamples. Of the 8 subgroups, 4 had relatively flat profiles (range of mean scores across factors <0.5 SD), 2 had higher comprehension than decoding, and 2 had higher decoding than comprehension. Profiles were consistent with expectations regarding demographic factors. Non-native speakers were overrepresented in subgroups with relatively higher decoding and underrepresented in subgroups with relatively higher comprehension. Adults with self-reported learning disabilities were overrepresented in the lowest performing subgroup. Older adults and men were overrepresented in subgroups with lower performance. The study adds to the limited research on the reading skills of ABE learners and, from the perspective of practice, supports the importance of assessing component skills to plan instruction.


Adult literacy Adult basic education Reading Cluster analysis 



This research was supported by a grant to the University of Delaware and Abt Associates Inc. jointly funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (5R01HD43798), the National Institute for Literacy, and the Office of Vocational and Adult Education of the U. S. Department of Education.


  1. Aaron, P. G., Joshi, R. M., Gooden, R., & Bentum, K. E. (2008). Diagnosis and treatment of reading disabilities based on the component model of reading: An alternative to the discrepancy model of LD. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 41(1), 67–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adlof, S. M., Catts, H. W., & Little, T. D. (2006). Should the simple view of reading include a fluency component? Reading and Writing, 19, 933–958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alamprese, J. A. (1993). Key components of workplace literacy projects and definition of project “models”. In Research Triangle Institute (Ed.), Alternative designs for evaluating workplace literacy programs. Research Triangle Park, NC: Author.Google Scholar
  4. Alamprese, J. A. (2009). Developing learners’ reading skills in adult basic education programs. In S. Reder & J. Bynner (Eds.), Tracking adult literacy and numeracy skills: Findings from longitudinal research (pp. 107–131). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Aldenderfer, M. S., & Blashfield, R. K. (1984). Cluster analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bayne, R., Beauchamp, J., Begovich, C., & Kane, V. E. (1980). Monte Carlo comparisons of selected clustering procedures. Pattern Recognition, 12, 51–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berkovitz, L., & Curtis, M. B. (2004). STAR reading toolkit for intermediate level adult basic skills-pilot version. Arlington, VA: DTI Associates Inc.Google Scholar
  8. Berninger, V. W., Abbott, R. D., Abbott, S. P., Graham, S., & Richards, T. (2002). Writing and reading: Connections between language by hand and language by eye. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 39–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Binder, K., & Borecki, C. (2009). The use of phonological, orthographic, and contextual information during reading: a comparison of adults who are learning to read and skilled adult readers. Reading and Writing, 21, 843–858.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bristow, P. S., & Leslie, L. (1988). Indicators of reading difficulty: Discrimination between instructional- and frustration-range performance of functionally illiterate adults. Reading Research Quarterly, 23(2), 200–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bruck, M. (1990). Word-recognition skills of adults with childhood diagnoses of dyslexia. Developmental Psychology, 26, 439–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bruck, M. (1992). Persistence of dyslexics’ phonological deficits. Developmental Psychology, 28, 874–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Calinski, T., & Harabasz, J. (1985). A dendrite model for cluster analysis. Communications in Statistics, 3, 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cattell, R. B. (1949). r p and other coefficients of pattern similarity. Psychometrika, 14, 279–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Catts, H. W., Adlof, S. M., & Weismer, S. E. (2006). Language deficits in poor comprehenders: A case for the simple view of reading. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49, 278–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Comings, J., & Soricone, L. (2007). Adult literacy research: Opportunities and challenges. NCSALL Occasional Paper. Cambridge, MA: National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy.Google Scholar
  17. Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System. (2005). CASAS technical manual. San Diego, CA: Author.Google Scholar
  18. Connor, C. M., Morrison, F. J., & Katch, E. L. (2004). Beyond the reading wars: The effect of classroom instruction by child interactions on early reading. Scientific Studies of Reading, 8, 305–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Crockett, L. J., Moilanen, K. L., Raffaelli, M., & Randall, B. A. (2006). Psychological profiles and adolescent adjustment: A person-centered approach. Development and Psychopathology, 18, 195–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. CTB/McGraw-Hill. (1994). TABE: Tests of adult basic education. Monterey, CA: CTB/McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  21. Cutting, L. E., & Scarborough, H. S. (2006). Prediction of reading comprehension: Relative contributions of word recognition, language proficiency, and other cognitive skills can depend on how comprehension is measured. Scientific Studies of Reading, 10, 277–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Davidson, R. K., & Strucker, J. (2002). Patterns of word-recognition error among adult basic education native and nonnative speakers of English. Scientific Studies of Reading, 6(3), 299–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Duda, R. O., & Hart, P. E. (1973). Pattern classification and scene analysis. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  24. Ehri, L. C. (2000). Learning to read and learning to spell: Two sides of a coin. Topics in Language Disorders, 20, 19–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ehri, L. C., & McCormick, S. (1998). Phases of word learning: Implications for instruction with delayed and disabled readers. Reading and Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 14(2), 135–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Eng, W., Heimberg, R. G., Coles, M. E., Schneier, F. R., & Liebowitz, M. R. (2000). An empirical approach to subtype identification in individuals with social phobia. Psychological Medicine, 30, 1345–1357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Feagans, L., & Appelbaum, M. I. (1986). Validation of language subtypes in learning disabled children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 358–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS (3rd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Glutting, J. J., & McDermott, P. A. (1990). Patterns and prevalence of core profile types in the WPPSI standardization sample. School Psychology Review, 19, 471–491.Google Scholar
  30. Glutting, J. J., McDermott, P. A., & Konold, T. R. (1997). Ontology, structure and diagnostic benefits of a normative subtest taxonomy from the WISC-III standardization sample. In D. P. Flanagan, J. L. Genshaft, & P. L. Harrison (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment: Theories, tests, and issues (pp. 349–372). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  31. Greenburg, D., Ehri, L., & Perin, D. (1997). Are word-reading processes the same or different in adult literacy students and third–fifth graders matched for reading level? Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 262–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Greenburg, D., Ehri, L., & Perin, D. (2002). Do adult literacy students make the same word-reading and spelling errors as children matched for word-reading age? Scientific Studies of Reading, 6, 221–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hanna, G., Schell, L. M., & Schreiner, R. (1977). The Nelson reading skills test. Itasaca, IL: Riverside.Google Scholar
  34. Hoover, W. A., & Gough, P. B. (1990). The simple view of reading. Reading and Writing, 2, 127–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Howell, D. C. (2002). Statistical methods for psychology (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Duxbury.Google Scholar
  36. Jones, P. R., Laufgraben, J. L., & Morris, N. (2006). Developing an empirically based typology of attitudes of entering students toward participation in learning communities. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31, 249–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Konold, T. R., Glutting, J. J., & McDermott, P. A. (1997). The development and applied utility of a normative aptitude-assessment taxonomy for the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery-Revised. The Journal of Special Education, 31, 212–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Konold, T. R., Juel, C., McKinnon, M., & Deffes, R. (2003). A multivariate model of reading. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 89–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kruidenier, J. (2002). Research-based principles for adult basic education reading instruction. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation.Google Scholar
  40. Kuiper, F. K., & Fisher, L. (1975). 391: A Monte Carlo comparison of six clustering procedures. Biometrics, 31, 777–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kutner, M., Greenberg, E., & Baer, J. (2005). National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL): A first look at the literacy of America’s adults in the 21st century (Report No. NCES 2006–470). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education.Google Scholar
  42. Kutner, M., Greenberg, E., Jin, Y., Boyle, B., Hsu, Y., Dunleavy, E., et al. (2007). Literacy in everyday life: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. (No. (NCES 2007–480)). Washington, DC: US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.Google Scholar
  43. Lee, J., Grigg, W., & Donahue, P. (2007). The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2007 (No. (NCES 2007–496)). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education.Google Scholar
  44. Lefly, D. L., & Pennington, B. F. (1991). Spelling errors and reading fluency in compensated adult dyslexics. Annals of Dyslexia, 41, 143–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. MacArthur, C. A., Konold, T. R., Glutting, J. J., & Alamprese, J. A. (2010). Reading component skills of learners in adult basic education. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43, 108–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McDermott, P. A. (1998). MEG: Megacluster analytic strategy for multistage hierarchical grouping with relocations and replications. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 58, 677–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McKenna, M. C., & Stahl, S. A. (2008). Assessment for reading instruction. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  48. Mellard, D. F., Fall, E., & Woods, K. L. (2010). A path analysis of reading comprehension for adults with low literacy. Journal of Learning Disabilities.Google Scholar
  49. Miller, B., McCardle, P., & Hernandez, R. (2010). Advances and remaining challenges in adult literacy research. Journal of Learning Disabilities.Google Scholar
  50. Morris, R. D., Stuebing, K. K., Fletcher, J. M., Shaywitz, S. E., Lyon, G. R., Shankweiler, D. P., et al. (1998). Subtypes of reading disability: Variability around a phonological core. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 347–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Nanda, A. O., Greenberg, D., & Morris, R. (2010). Modeling child-based theoretical reading constructs with struggling adult readers. Journal of Learning Disabilities.Google Scholar
  52. National Reading Panel. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read—Reports of the subgroups. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.Google Scholar
  53. Pierce, M. E., Katzir, T., Wolf, M., & Noam, G. G. (2007). Clusters of second and third grade dysfluent urban readers. Reading and Writing, 20, 885–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Richards, T., Aylward, E., Raskind, W., Abbott, R., Field, K., Parsons, A., et al. (2006). Converging evidence for triple word form theory in children with dyslexia. Developmental Neuropsychology, 30, 547–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sabatini, J. P., Sawaki, Y., Shore, J., & Scarborough, H. (2010). Relationships among reading skills of adults with low literacy. Journal of Learning Disabilities.Google Scholar
  56. Share, D. L., & Stanovich, K. E. (1995). Cognitive processes in early reading development: Accommodating individual differences into a model of acquisition. Issues in Education: Contributions from Educational Psychology, 1(1), 1–58.Google Scholar
  57. Speece, D. (1987). Information processing subtypes of learning-disabled readers. Learning Disabilities Research, 2, 91–102.Google Scholar
  58. Strucker, J., & Davidson, R. K. (2003). Adult reading components study (ARCS): Research Brief. Boston, MA: National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy. Available online at
  59. Strucker, J., Yamamoto, K., & Kirsch, I. (2007). The relationship of the component skills of reading to IALS performance: Tipping points and five classes of adult literacy learners. Cambridge, MA: National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL).Google Scholar
  60. Swanson, H. L. (2000). Issues facing the field of learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 23, 37–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Templeton, S., & Morris, D. (2000). Spelling. In M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 3, pp. 525–544). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  62. Tomasi, S. F., & Weinberg, S. L. (1999). Classifying children as LD: An analysis of current practice in an urban setting. Learning Disability Quarterly, 22, 31–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Torgeson, J. K., Wagner, R. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1999). Test of word reading efficiency (TOWRE). Austin, TX: ProEd.Google Scholar
  64. Tryon, R. C., & Bailey, D. E. (1970). Cluster analysis. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  65. US Department of Education. (2006). State Administered Adult Education Program: Program Year 2004–2005 Enrollment. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy.Google Scholar
  66. US Department of Education, Office of Vocational, Adult Education. (June. (2007). Implementation guidelines: Measures and methods for the national reporting system for adult education. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  67. Vellutino, F. R., Tunmer, W. E., Jaccard, J. J., & Chen, R. (2007). Components of reading ability: Multivariate evidence for a convergent skills model of reading development. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11(1), 3–32.Google Scholar
  68. Venezky, R. L. (1970). The structure of English orthography. The Netherlands: Mouton & Co.Google Scholar
  69. Venezky, R. L. (1999). The American way of spelling: The structure and origins of American English orthography. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  70. Venezky, R. L. (2003). Letter-sound survey. Unpublished test.Google Scholar
  71. Ward, J. H., Jr. (1963). Hierarchical grouping to optimize an objective function. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 58, 236–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wickens, T. D., & Keppel, G. (2004). Design and analysis: A researcher’s handbook (4th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  73. Wilkinson, G. S. (1993). Wide range achievement test—Revision 3. Wilmington, DE: Jastak Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  74. Woodcock, R., & Johnson, M. B. (1989). Woodcock-Johnson tests of achievement-revised. Itasca, IL: Riverside.Google Scholar
  75. Worthy, J., & Viise, N. M. (1996). Morphological, phonological, and orthographic differences between the spelling of normally achieving children and basic literacy adults. Reading and Writing, 8, 139–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles A. MacArthur
    • 1
  • Timothy R. Konold
    • 2
  • Joseph J. Glutting
    • 1
  • Judith A. Alamprese
    • 3
  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Curry School of EducationUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Abt Associates, Inc.BethesdaUSA

Personalised recommendations