This study explored the reading instructional needs of 187 non-proficient students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. The sample purposefully included economic and/or ethnic minority students who failed to demonstrate proficiency on their state mandated-reading assessment. This inclusion allowed the students often omitted from research and those who are at the negative ends of the opportunity gap to be represented. This mixed methods study used a heavy quantitative focus to determine the unique instructional needs of the students including patterns of strengths and weaknesses with respect to their reading skills. The quantitative component was followed with an interview analysis to provide a deeper understanding of the reading dispositions representing four focus students. An important finding from the study was the students’ beliefs in the skill of word recognition as the essential component of reading, which the quantitative data validated with the students comprehending at least one grade level below their word recognition level. The discussion focuses on the key characteristics of non-proficient readers which are vital for designing interventions to help this group of students achieve success.



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