The role of academic language in written composition in elementary and middle school

  • Adrea J. TruckenmillerEmail author
  • Yaacov Petscher


Academic language has been identified as an important focus for instructing students about the quality of written composition they need to be successful in college and career. However, the role of academic language in written composition achievement is not well understood. This study explores the role of academic language skills in students’ written composition outcomes. Measures of general academic language at the word, and sentence levels, as well as a reading comprehension measure that included academic text and a word recognition measure were administered to 1316 students in Grade 4 and 1302 students in Grade 8. Students’ skill with these four areas were compared to their pass rate on the state accountability test for written composition. Results from a series of general linear mixed models indicate that these four measures predict 65% of the variance in pass rates on a written composition assessment in Grade 4 and 86% in Grade 8. Academic language contributed a small amount of unique, but mostly common variance to distinguishing between proficient and non-proficient writers. Implications related to the unique and common contribution of academic language for improving writing outcomes are discussed.


Academic language Written composition Written expression 



The authors’ time related to initial project planning was funded by the Institute for Education Sciences R305F100005. The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Linda Gaughan for participating with the project and Dr. Lori Skibbe for her feedback on drafts of the manuscript. Yaacov Petscher is a co-author of the Lexia RAPID Assessment, a commercialized version of the FCRR Reading Assessment reported in this manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special EducationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.College of Social Work and Florida Center for Reading ResearchFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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