Adjusting Levels and Goals


1. How do I select and adjust a goal for a student in Word Warm-ups Live?

As stated in the Word Warm-ups Live Phonics Assessment:
Setting Goals for Word Warm-ups Live:
The default goal is 40 words correct per minute (WCPM).
Adjust the goal if the student cannot pass after 3–10 practices or if the student needs more challenge.”

The default goal of 40 WCPM is a good starting point for most students. It can be moved up or down based on the student performance on the first few stories. The goal would need to be adjusted in these instances:

  • If the student can meet the goal after one or two tries, they likely need more challenge.
  • If the student is trying 10 or more times and can’t meet the goal, the goal should be reduced.
  • If the student is consistently five to ten words above the goal after three practices, the goal should be raised.

Meeting a goal of 60 WCPM indicates probable mastery of the skill, but accuracy is essential to mastery as well.


2. How do I make sure the student is in an appropriate level with an appropriate goal?

It is essential that students using Read Naturally work in the level of material that both challenges them and allows them to succeed. Students also need a goal that motivates them to strive to meet the goal rate with expression and understanding.

After a student has completed three to six stories, check the student's initial placement (see the links below) and adjust the student's level if necessary. If the student's level needs to be changed, set a new goal by adding 30 (grades four and below) or 40 (grades 5 and above) to the first cold-timing score in the new level. If the student's level is already appropriate, check the initial goal to see if it's appropriate or needs adjustment.

Once the student's level placement is appropriate, the student should remain in that level for at least 12 stories, but likely for 24 stories. As the student completes more stories, you will usually increase the challenge for the student by adjusting the goal. Occasionally, you may decide to raise the level after twelve stories. However, keep the student's long term benchmark fluency goal in mind:

The student is able to read unpracticed, grade-level passages at, near, or above the 50th percentile on national norms.

Continuously observe each student to know when to change the student's goal. Consider raising the goal when one or more of the following descriptions apply to the student:

  • Average cold-timing score constantly increases.
  • Average hot-timing score surpasses the goal by ten or more.
  • Needs to read along only once or twice.
  • Needs to practice a story only three or fewer times.
  • Begins to show signs of boredom.
For more information: 

pointer Introducing the Students At-a-Glance Report
pointer Checking Initial Placement in Read Live 
pointer FAQs about Checking Initial Placement in Read Live
pointer Checking Initial Placement in Encore
pointer Monitoring Student Performance in Read Live
pointer Monitoring Student Performance in Encore

3. When do I raise a level? When do I raise a goal? Do I raise both?

If the level was appropriate or adjusted when you checked initial placement, the level will typically remain the same until the student completes at least 12 stories.

  • After the student completes 12 stories, check to see if the student has shown growth in the cold-timing and hot-timing scores. Also consider the student's average comprehension and average number or practices on the most recent three stories, and use your teacher judgment to decide if the student should remain in the same level or needs more challenge.
  • After a student completes all of the stories in a level, which is typically 24 stories, raise the student's level.

In the following instances, consider continuing the level:

  • If the student averages less than 80 percent correct on the quiz questions on the first try.
  • If the student is working in a level close to grade level and the cold-timing scores have not increased sufficiently or are not close enough to the long term benchmark goal (The student is able to read unpracticedgrade-level passages at, near, or above the 50th percentile on national norms.).
  • If the student has high error rates during cold or hot timings because the student lacks the oral vocabulary to read the current level of material.
  • If the student lacks the phonics skills to decode the words in this level.

Keep the goal the same if the student has high error rates due to carelessness or a desire for speed.

If the student's comprehension is good and number of practices is low, determine whether to raise the student's level or goal by considering the gains the student needs to make in level of material and reading rate to achieve his/her long-term fluency goal. The student's long-term fluency goal is reading unpracticed, grade-level material at a rate that is at least at the 50th percentile of national norms.

  • If the student's Read Naturally level is several years below grade level, consider raising the level.
  • If the student's Read Naturally level is close to grade level and the average cold-timing score is close to or exceeds the goal, consider raising the goal.
  • If the student's Read Naturally level is close to grade level and the average hot-timing score exceeds the goal by more than ten, consider raising the goal.

Once you've decided which element to raise—level or goal—follow the guidelines below to help ensure the student's continued success.

  • Raise only one element at a time: either the level or the goal.
  • Typically, raise levels by half a year if materials are available (upper levels do not have half-year increments). In rare cases, you may raise levels by a whole year if a student is reading in level 3.0 or above and has made significant fluency progress, comprehends well, can handle the extra challenge, and materials are available.
  • Raise goals by 10 words at a time.
  • Discuss the change with the student, asking for his/her input.

4. Why should I only raise one element at a time: either the level or the goal?

Raising the level or the goal increases the challenge for the student. When a student moves to a new level, the stories will be more difficult, so a corresponding goal increase is unnecessary. Change one element, and see how the student reacts to the change. If the student adapts well to the increased challenge, you can adjust the other element after a few more stories if the student needs even more challenge.

5. Should I ever lower a student’s level of material or goal?

​Occasionally, you may need to decrease a reading level or a goal. Usually, you will check initial placement in the first week or two of the program and make adjustments if the initial level and/or goal are incorrect. It is important that the student works in the correct level with an appropriate goal as early as possible.

Once the placement has been approved or adjusted, you may need to lower the goal if a student begins to make many errors in an attempt to read faster. If simply drawing attention to the increased error rate does not solve the problem, you may need to temporarily lower the goal and attend to accuracy.

As the student progresses in Read Naturally, monitor student data to determine whether further adjustments are needed. The reading level or goal may be too difficult if the student has several of the following problems:

  • The cold-timing score is consistently more than 30 wcpm below the goal for students below fifth grade, and more that 40 wcpm below the goal for students in fifth grade and above.
  • The student needs to practice the story more than 10 times.
  • The student's hot-timing score is below his or her goal.
  • The student answers most of the questions incorrectly.
  • The student seems disinterested or frustrated.

You and the student should discuss the situation whenever you adjust the reading level or goal. The student needs to become aware of his or her successes and challenges in order to know what needs attention.

6. If the placement test results have placed a student significantly above his or her grade level, but the student is struggling to answer the questions accurately in that level, what can I do?

This is a common question, especially if the student is an English language learner. The short answer is that this student may not need to work in a fluency program because the student may already be a fluent reader. Check the Oral Reading Fluency Table to determine if the student's fluency score is above the 50th percentile for his or her grade level.

However, teachers use Read Naturally for more reading difficulties than fluency, even though developing fluency was the original intent of the program. For a student who is already a fluent reader, but whose comprehension is not sufficient, we recommend that you:

  1. Move the student to the next lower level.
  2. After three stories, check to see if the average for the quiz questions is at 60% or higher.
    • In Read Naturally Live, find the average quiz score for the last three stories on the Student’s At-a-Glance report.
    • In Read Naturally Encore you will need to average the scores yourself.
  3. If the average on the quiz questions is at 60% or higher, keep the student in this level.
  4. If the score is still below 60%, try the next lower level and check the average of the scores from the first three stories in that level.
  5. Continue this process until you find a level where the student can answer the questions with at least 60% accuracy and support comprehension as the student works in that level.
  6. Change the number of Read Alongs and have the student read the whole story during the practice and pass steps.
    • In Read Live Story Options,  set the number of Required Read Alongs to one, and select the whole-story timing duration
    • In Read Naturally Encore, tell the student to read along quietly only to one Read Along, and to read the whole story during the practice and pass steps. We have designed a special timer to accommodate whole story timings that gives you a score for words read per minute when using the CD/Print versions.
  7. Set the goal lower than usual to focus on comprehension rather than rate.

7. A student completed 12 stories in the level, always exceeded her goal by more than ten words after just three practices, and has an average quiz score of 81%. Should I raise her level?

If the student needs more challenge after the first 12 stories of a level, you'll typically raise the goal because most students need to complete 24 stories in a level before tackling more difficult material. Students, especially beginning readers, need the opportunity to master commonly used words, including high-frequency words, before being challenged with more difficult text.

The only time you'll raise the level after the first 12 stories is if the student has a Read Naturally level significantly below his or her long-term fluency benchmark goal and has quiz scores of greater than 80% on the last three stories.
Occasionally, after 12 stories, a student may have high error rates due to carelessness or a desire for speed. You'd keep the goal and level the same for a student who is careless or racing. This will help keep the emphasis on accuracy, not speed.
In most cases, after a student completes all 24 stories in a level, you'll assign the next level because you should not change more than one element at a time. However, if a student would benefit from staying in the current level, and if additional series are available that would be appropriate for the student, the student can remain in the level. To keep the student in the current level, you'd assign him or her another series.
When deciding between raising the level and raising the goal, you should consider the long-term fluency benchmark goal. Even though the Read Naturally stories are not assessments, comparing the student's average cold-timing score to the student's long-term fluency benchmark goal is still helpful when considering whether to raise the level or the goal. The comparison gives you an indication of how many levels the student needs to complete and the amount of rate increase the student needs to make in order to reach the student's long-term goal.

8. What is the long-term fluency benchmark goal for each of my students?

A student's long-term fluency benchmark goal is defined as: The student is able to read unpracticed, grade-level passages at, near, or above the 50th percentile on national norms.

To determine a student's long-term fluency benchmark goal, compare a student's benchmark assessment data to the Hasbrouck & Tindal Oral Reading Fluency Data. Is the student at or above the Spring WCPM 50th percentile for the student's grade level? If the student is at or above the 50th percentile for the student's grade-level in the Spring WCPM, the student has met the long-term fluency benchmark goal.

In the fall, you compare a student's fall benchmark assessment data to the Hasbrouck & Tindal Table to determine if the student may have reading difficulties and fluency problems. In the spring, you compare a student's spring benchmark assessment data to this table to determine how well the student's benchmark score compares to the 50th percentile for the grade level.

Between benchmark assessments you can also use the table to get some indication of a student's progress toward the long-term fluency goal. You can compare the student's Read Naturally average cold-timing score to the student's long-term fluency goal as long as you are aware of the limitations of this comparison. Comparing the average cold-timing score to Hasbrouck & Tindal norms may be misleading because:

  • The student's current Read Naturally stories are probably not at grade level. The farther the stories are below the student's grade level, the less valuable the comparison.
  • Even if the student's current stories are at grade level, the average score is not as accurate as a benchmark score because the Read Naturally stories have not been tested for reliability and validity as an assessment.
  • An average cold-timing score is less accurate if the teacher is not present during the cold timing.

Even with these limitations, comparing the student's average cold-timing score to the student's long-term fluency benchmark goal is still helpful when considering whether to raise the level or the goal. The comparison gives you an indication of how many levels the student needs to complete and the amount of rate increase the student needs to make in order to reach the student's long-term goal.

Long-term Fluency Benchmark Goals
Grade 1 53       
Grade 2 89       
Grade 3 107       
Grade 4  123       
Grade 5 139       
Grade 6 150       
Grade 7 150       
Grade 8 151       

Adapted from Hasbrouck & Tindal Oral Reading Fluency Data




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