Literably and the Science of Reading

Tyler Borek
May 24, 2023

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As you know, there are some major shifts happening in U.S. elementary reading due to the growing Science of Reading (SoR) movement.

At Literably, we’ve been working for the past few years to ensure our growing suite of literacy assessments is aligned to the SoR research, so we can best support educators and students.

We’re very excited about this work, which has been recognized with grants from the US DOE and the Tools Competition.

I know you have a lot on your plate, so I’ve distilled our work into this blog post. In this post, you’ll learn about:

  1. Our New SoR Assessments
  2. Plans for Our Fluency Assessment
  3. How Literably Can Help

In this moment, we’d love to hear how we can best support you. You can reach us at We’re having a lot of conversations with educators right now, and we’d be delighted to hear your perspective.

We’re so grateful for the opportunity to support you and your students. Thank you!

1. Our New SoR Assessments

Educator Needs

First, we talked to educators. Most educators had three priorities. They wanted their reading assessments to be faster, more accurate, and more actionable.

Most educators used multiple reading assessments, but each assessment fell short on at least one priority. Specifically, they were:

Not Fast: Teacher-scored assessments took up a lot of instructional time. That made it hard for teachers to collect, analyze, and act on data.
Not Accurate: Computer-scored tests struggled with foundational literacy skills - like phonological awareness, phonics and fluency - that are best assessed orally. Unfortunately, these are the exactly skills that trip up most struggling readers.
Not Actionable: Most assessments were not curriculum-aligned. That made it hard for educators to analyze data and decide on next steps.

Grant Funding

Based on our research, we applied for and won grants from the Institute of Education Sciences at the United States Department of Education (grant 1, grant 2) and the Tools Competition (grant 3) to develop SoR-aligned elementary literacy assessments that could accurately and efficiently measure all the components of reading, including foundational skills, and directly inform instruction – in short, assessments that would be fast, accurate, and actionable.

Building a Better Assessment

That work is now coming to fruition. Literably now offers subtests for rapid automatized naming (RAN), phonological awareness (PA), phonics, spelling, and oral reading fluency - with vocabulary and comprehension coming later this year. Students can assess independently, and the oral assessments are scored within 24 hours by normed human transcribers supported by automatic speech recognition (ASR). Our unique approach to scoring allows us to provide assessments that are fast and accurate - even for skills best assessed orally.

Aligning to Instruction

To ensure the data is actionable, Literably now offers both pre-built assessments and the ability to customize Literably to align to certain skills and/or curricula. With these new customization features, teachers can use Literably to measure exactly the skills they want to measure, so the tie between assessment and instruction is strong and clear. And we’re working to enable even easier curriculum-alignment, including tools to build and deploy custom assessments at the school or district level, and pre-built assessments aligned to popular curricula.

If you’re interested in the idea of curriculum-aligned assessment, please contact us at We’re actively collaborating with schools and districts, and we’d love to hear what you’re looking for!

To summarize so far:

We Talked to Educators: First, we talked to educators about their needs.
We Won Grant Funding: Then, we applied for and won several competitive grants to deliver on educator needs.
We Built New Assessments: Now, we’ve built out several new assessments aligned to educator needs (with even more coming soon).
We’re Strengthening the Assessment-Instruction Loop: Finally, we’re working to further strengthen our assessments, and the connection between assessment and instruction - all based on researcher and educator feedback.

Below, we’ll cover plans for our fluency assessment. Before that, check out some quick screenshots from Literably’s newest assessments:

Assign: Teachers assign pre-made or custom assessments (video).
Assess: Students assess independently.
Get Results: Teachers get results within 24 hours.

2. Plans for Our Fluency Assessment

The Research Behind Literably Oral Reading Fluency

As you probably know, Literably started as an oral reading fluency (ORF) assessment. As with other ORF assessments (e.g. DIBELS), the research on Literably ORF is based on words correct per minute (wcpm).

Both fluency and wcpm are strongly aligned with the Science of Reading. Fluency is a crucial enabler of comprehension and one of the five pillars of reading identified by the National Reading Panel, and wcpm is the most well-validated metric associated with fluency.
For Literably ORF, research led by an independent psychometrician has shown that Literably ORF predicts students performance on an end-of-year state reading test - with screening performance on par with popular teacher-administered ORF assessments like DIBELS.

An Oral Reading Fluency Assessment Built for the Science of Reading

When we first launched Literably, we heard overwhelming demand from teachers, schools and districts to display texts with their guided reading levels. Based on that demand and our own understanding of best practice, we added that feature to Literably. But Literably ORF’s underlying research was still based on fluency and wcpm.

Now, as some schools move away from guided reading levels, we’re working on a new version of Literably ORF explicitly designed to support these schools and districts. Based on educator requests and our own research, this new version of Literably ORF will include decodable texts at the lower grades, and we’re very excited at the potential to report on both overall fluency and decoding skills in context.

If you’re interested in the idea of a purpose-built SoR ORF assessment featuring decodable texts, please contact us at We’re actively collaborating with schools now, and we’d love to hear what you’re looking for!

3. How Literably Can Help

How can Literably help in a Science of Reading context?

Literably offers unique benefits for schools shifting towards SoR. In particular, Literably offers:

Fast and Accurate Assessment of Foundational Skills Best Assessed Orally: The Science of Reading places a strong (and appropriate) emphasis on foundational literacy skills like phonological awareness, phonics, and fluency, which are best assessed orally. Assessing these skills by hand is time-consuming. Assessments that rely on multiple choice or automatic speech recognition (ASR) struggle to provide accurate results, especially at the phoneme level. Literably is the only organization that employs normed human transcribers (supported by ASR) to provide high-accuracy transcripts of oral literacy assessments. This enables us to assess critical foundational literacy skills with unparalleled accuracy - without placing demands on teacher time.
Actionable Data Aligned to Your Scope and Sequence: Most assessments are curriculum-agnostic, so it’s hard for educators to look at assessment data and know where to go next. At Literably, we’re building the tools to align Literably assessment data to your curriculum, so you can see exactly what students are missing, and what to do next.

What are you looking for?

We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity we have to partner with educators. If you have questions or ideas about what you’d like to see, please let us know! We would love to talk with you! You can contact us anytime at Thank you!

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