Date of Award

Fall 8-21-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Dr. Susan R. Easterbrooks

Second Advisor

Dr. . Laura D. Fredrick


Many adolescent readers do not acquire adequate reading skills, and over the past 40 years reading scores for adolescent students have not improved (Edmonds, Vaughn, Wexler, Reutebuch, & Cable, 2009; Lee, Grigg, & Donahue, 2007). The purposes of this study were (a) to explore the relationships among phrase-reading ability, passage reading rate, syntactic awareness and reading comprehension of students attending an alternative school, and (b) to investigate whether phrase-reading ability serves as a mediator (i.e., the mechanism that accounts for the relationship between the predictor and the criterion) between reading rate and comprehension, and between syntactic awareness and reading comprehension. Theories of automaticity (LaBerge & Samuels, 1974; Perfetti, 1985) and the structural precedence hypothesis (Koriat, Greenberg, & Kreiner, 2002) provide the theoretical basis for this investigation. To investigate the relation among reading rate, syntactic awareness, phrase-reading ability, and comprehension, a series of assessments was conducted with 70 students who attend an alternative school. The resulting data were analyzed using correlation analysis, hierarchical regression (Pedhazur, 1997), and mediation regression (Baron & Kenny, 1984). The hypotheses for adolescent readers in an alternative setting are: (a) Phrase-reading ability, syntactic awareness, passage reading rate, and reading comprehension will have a positive, significant correlation; (b) Language related variables (i.e., phrasing ability, syntactic awareness) will account for more of the variance in reading comprehension than passage reading rate; (c) Phrase-reading ability, as measured by phrase-level prosody, provides a mechanism or at least partially mediates how passage reading rate affects reading comprehension; (d) Phrase-reading ability, as measured by phrase-level prosody, provides a mechanism or at least partially mediates how syntactic awareness affects reading comprehension. Findings confirmed all hypotheses. Based on these findings, researchers should further investigate contributions that language related skills such as phrase-reading ability and syntactic awareness make to reading comprehension for adolescent readers and whether these findings when disaggregated hold true for students with disabilities and struggling adolescent readers. This investigation brought attention to the need for a standardized terminology concerning reading fluency.