A customer emailed us to ask for insight about typical reading levels after completing various levels of various levels of Logic of English curriculum. "For sure every child is different," she wrote, "but what would be the average? ... At what level could we expect our children to be?"
This is a complex question, both because it depends on what you measure and because once students have strong decoding and phonemic awareness skills, there are some significant variables affecting reading level: their spoken language comprehension skills, and, to a smaller extent, the degree of automaticity they have attained so far in applying the reading skills they have learned. These can vary greatly from student to student.
Students who have completed Foundations have the tools to read virtually any word in their spoken vocabulary, as well as to learn new words through reading. All 75 basic phonograms used regularly in English words and the spelling rules needed for decoding are taught by the end of Foundations C, and students build on and practice these skills (while continuing to learn more spelling rules and some advanced phonograms) in Foundations D. Once students know these concepts, they have all the tools in place to continue to build fluency on their own, since once all the foundational skills are in place the brain is able to self-teach fluency through practice. Their decoding skills and understanding of how English spelling works are often stronger than those of many upper elementary or even high school students, even if they are only in 1st or 2nd grade.
However, some will be reading at a late 1st or early 2nd reading level because they are still developing automaticity in applying the tools they have learned or have weaker spoken comprehension and vocabulary skills, while others will be reading at a 3rd or 4th grade level or above. Others might be making slower progress because they are still developing fluency with some of the tools they have learned, particularly if there's an underlying learning issue, but they will have laid the foundation they need to build on for successful growth. All of these outcomes are common.
To add to the complexity, answering the reading level question accurately depends on how it is assessed. For example, a child who is early in Foundations B has learned the tools needed to decode several hundred high-frequency words and thousands of other English words. However, if asked to read a text (or an assessment) that was written based on memorization of select sight words and guessing other words from patterns, pictures, and first letters, the Foundations student will likely struggle to decode some of the words if they use use concepts that have not yet been introduced. With this style of text as the measure, the Foundations student may look like a weaker reader than another child who has memorized these particular sight words and been taught to read by guessing whole words from patterns, pictures, and first sounds, even if the Foundations student actually has the ability to read many more words and a much stronger foundation for long-term reading proficiency.
With spelling, again, it depends on what you measure. Students who have completed Foundations typically have a stronger understanding of how English spelling works and why our words are spelled the way they are than most high school students do. However, they have been focused on learning the phonograms and rules and practicing applying them, in order to understand how encoding in English works, rather than on memorizing lists of specific words. (They do this a bit in the later levels of Foundations, but the focus is always on understanding why and how, and learning concepts that apply to all words, more than on rote memorization of particular words. Spelling mastery doesn't become a major focus until Essentials.) So they may still misspell many words, though often in ways that indicate strong understanding of the phonograms and rules.
This means that if you are comparing Foundations students to other students based on rote memorization of certain words, some students might seem "behind," whereas if you are looking at understanding and encoding skills you might find them far ahead of a typical 2nd grader.
Foundations fills the Common Core ELA standards for K and 1, as well as most 2nd grade standards. But also goes far beyond what Common Core requires in many reading and spelling skills.
Essentials is a complete course in how English spelling works, so a student who has completed Essentials will have a more complete understanding of how to read and spell English words and the patterns that exist in our written language than most high school students do.
In terms of the specific spelling words they've been working on and practicing with, I think you might find the Level A list typical of what many 2nd or 3rd graders might work on, B typical of 3rd or 4th, and C typical of 5th or 6th. However, again, the difference from many other programs is that even students using the level A words to practice the skills with have learned the phonograms and spelling rules needed to explain 98% of the words in our language by the time they complete Unit 30. The primary focus has been on mastering these concepts, while a secondary focus has been on mastering specific words they have used to practice them.
And with reading level, for the same reasons as Foundations, with Essentials it completely depends on the student's oral comprehension.
The Simple View of Reading, a formula used to summarize the two key components of reading comprehension, is that Decoding Skills x Oral Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension. Students who have completed Essentials have all the tools needed for decoding English words and have had extensive practice applying them for encoding and decoding, so the first variable will be near 100% in this equation. They will have the tools they need to read anything in their spoken vocabulary, and they will be well on their way in developing fluency in doing so because of the many ways they have practiced these skills. In addition, they have the tools they need to learn new words through reading. But there will still be a wide range. Some students are already fluent readers when they start Essentials. They will have focused on spelling primarily, but will also have gained tools that will help them read and understand even more challenging words. Students who started Essentials as struggling readers might finish Essentials at a 2nd or 3rd grade level, if that's where their oral comprehension is, or at a 6th or 8th or 12th grade level if their oral language comprehension is higher.
You can learn more about the process of developing strong reading skills and about the Simple View of Reading on our Blog: