System 44
When Speed and Accuracy Merge

It's that time of year to begin to ask yourself very specific questions about student performance. You've had the Mid-Year Gains meetings, looked at the data and summarized results for the Phonics Inventory. Inevitably questions begin to formulate. "What's the difference between accuracy and fluency?" "Why have they gone up in accuracy but not fluency?" "What does this all mean?" "How do I help my System 44 students with more targeted instruction and practice with fluency?"

Accuracy-Fluency: What's the Difference?
This is the basis of the Phonics Inventory assessment. Having a better understanding of how the Phonics Inventory determines overall fluency helps with planning for instruction and helping students fill the gaps they may have from previous foundational reading instruction. 

     The Phonics Inventory was designed to measure fluency for two word-level reading skills: phonological decoding and sight word reading. Phonological decoding fluency is assessed by the speed and accuracy with which pronounceable nonwords are decoded. Sight word fluency is assessed by the speed and accuracy with which high-frequency words are read. (Phonics Inventory Technical Guide, pg. 3) 

Fluency is a combination of speed and accuracy--that automaticity we are looking for--how quickly a student is answering. Accuracy is having knowledge of the word or sounds but without the speed--without the automaticity.

     Phonics Inventory reports describe students' foundational reading skills in terms of four levels of Decoding Status. Results are based on the accuracy of student responses in the Letter Names subtest, and both the accuracy and fluency (i.e., speed) of student responses in the Sight Words and Nonsense Words subtests. To receive credit for a fluent response, students must select the correct answer within a given time limit.  (Screening, Assessment, and Reporting Guide, pg. 33)

We may see students start to move higher on the accuracy side at first as they acquire new decoding skills and learn more sight words. Some students may be stronger at first with sight words while other students may be stronger with nonsense words. 

Making Sense of the Numbers
As a classroom teacher, this is where it gets quite exciting, and as a coach, we begin to have more specific instructional conversations for System 44. Having this information on fluency and accuracy helps determine the direction we may take with the students to further develop their overall fluency. We know if the student has a good background of sight words, the plan can be to focus the instruction on phonological decoding. If they are showing more of a proficiency with phonological decoding, the plan for instruction can have a focus on sight words. This will bring an entirely new view of the use of the Instructional Routines tab in your Resources for Differentiation, RDI, book.

Now What?
All of this usually leads to one last question: "How do I help them do better?" Fortunately for System 44 users, along with the software, there are many resources available to use with students. All the components that make up the System 44 program have lessons to help students with developing their overall fluency. A breakdown looks like this:

For guidance with planning and using the many instructional resources available, use these options for differentiating your instruction over a week. You don't have to wait for a Check Point to use one of these options.

Number One Resource: The RDI
The Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI) Guide offers the opportunity to focus instruction where the students need it most. There is so much good information in this guide that one can become quite proficient in developing accuracy and fluency with their students. Two routines that can help students with their accuracy and fluency are the Getting Automatic with Sight Words Routine (pgs. 532-533) and the Timed Fluent Reading Routine (pgs. 548-549). Also, the Additional Resources section has word lists available from each series in the software for use with students. This is often a suggestion found in coaching notes to the teacher. 

In a Nutshell
The next time you find yourself asking "What's the difference between fluency and accuracy?", remember accuracy first then automaticity (speed). Help students daily with learning their sight words and practice using them both verbally and in written form. Help them to become conversational with you and each other. By consistently using the RDI Guide, sight word lists, and options for fluency practice (think Independent Reading and the Decodable Digest) your students will be well on their way to overall fluency. Your reward will be your students' growth and the excitement they have when they realize how many words they know and are able to read.


Leslie began her career in education as a teacher of Title 1 Reading and Math on the elementary level.  After 4 years, she moved to a secondary English/Language Arts role working with students at risk for failing that did not receive services and students identified as gifted and talented. During her teaching career she served as a teacher/leader mentoring new teachers on best teaching practices as well as a developer of curriculum. She is a former Teacher of the Year. 

Leslie became a consultant after 14 years of teaching concentrating on Reading/Literacy while working for companies that focused on technology and instruction in the classroom.  She has seen the progression of instruction and technology from its beginning days to its full integration in the classroom. Companies she has worked for include New Century Education, Computer Curriculum Corporation, Scholastic and HMH. 

Leslie brings experience from other opportunities she has had in her work life.  One is an understanding of child behavior and development after working as an advocate and volunteer trainer for abused and neglected children in the foster care system in the suburban Chicago area.  She also brings a technical expertise in the Microsoft office programs after spending time as a Microsoft Office Specialist Consultant with one of her clients being John Deere.

Leslie currently works for HMH as a full-time consultant specializing in Literacy solutions especially in intervention. Her favorite quote is from Dr. Seuss--"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."  She enjoys just about any genre but reads mostly suspense novels that involve any kind of coverup as well as those that are set in the South--especially the low country of South Carolina. Her two favorite authors are Pat Conroy (Prince of Tides) and Stephen King (Salem's Lot).

Leslie lives with her husband, Rich and her two dogs, Tundra and Zeke in North Carolina.