Author: Dr. Susan Rattan
Senior Research Scientist

I recently attended the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) conference and presented results from a pilot study on a brand-new measure of vocabulary that is under development here at Acadience Learning. This is a screening measure that will be used to identify students in kindergarten through third grade who may benefit from additional instruction or intervention in the area of vocabulary. As I stood in the crowded poster hall and discussed my results with interested attendees, I noticed that the most common comment about the project was, “I’m glad you’re working on this. Vocabulary is so important!” I eagerly agreed with this sentiment and assured people that we are working hard to get this measure ready for release.

In the days following the conference, I continued to reflect on the importance of vocabulary and the current state of vocabulary assessment and intervention as it fits into the science of reading. The important contribution that vocabulary knowledge makes to reading comprehension has long been understood. In fact, when a group of reading experts gathered to form the National Reading Panel in 2000 and reviewed the scientific evidence related to teaching children to read, they concluded that vocabulary was one of the “Big 5” essential components of reading. In the almost 25 years since that report was released, the other 4 identified areas of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and comprehension) have received much attention in both research and practice. Vocabulary, on the other hand, has lagged behind with studies showing that very little time is spent on vocabulary instruction at the elementary level.

If we know that vocabulary is important, why aren’t we spending more time directly teaching vocabulary in the classroom? One answer may be that we don’t have well-researched assessments for vocabulary. We have measures with decades of research behind them for phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and, to a lesser extent, comprehension. In those areas, we can quickly and easily see who needs additional instruction and use data to develop academic interventions. But we are missing this assessment piece in the area of vocabulary. I suspect that without data to show us where our students are, we lack the urgency to provide instruction and intervention.

I think this may be why I heard so much anticipation and excitement around the vocabulary measure we are developing. A strong vocabulary screening measure has the potential to change the way we think about vocabulary instruction and intervention in the early grades. Our hope is that this measure will allow us to better provide students with the vocabulary instruction they need in order to become successful readers.

If you are interested in more information about this measure, you can find the poster presentation from the National Association of School Psychologists conference here. If you are interested in partnering with us to collect data on this measure during the 2024-2025 school year, please contact me, Susan Rattan, at

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