Lexercise Mississippi Dyslexia Screener Tips

The Lexercise Mississippi Dyslexia Screener: Background & Guidance


What is a screening test?

Unlike most tests or assessments, screening tests are designed simply to sort those who are likely to have some problem(s) from those who probably do not.

While these tests don’t permit a diagnosis, they are quick to administer and indicate who may need additional evaluation or support.

Over the past decade, researchers have identified certain basic skills that are strong predictors of future success in reading, writing, and spelling. Assessments for these skills, called Curriculum Based Measures (CBMs), are already used by many schools and districts across the country.

Schools have embraced CBMs because they provide a cost-effective way of identifying which students are most in need of intervention to prevent long-term problems with literacy.  Recent research has confirmed the validity of this type of screening and progress-monitoring (Catts, et al., 2015). 


What is the Mississippi Screener?

In the summer of 2012, the state of Mississippi passed legislation requiring that schools screen kindergarten and first grade students in six areas that are generally deficit in people with dyslexia. Lexercise created the Mississippi Screener by aligning five well-researched CBMs with the components required under the Mississippi law:

 Mississippi law requires:

The Lexercise Mississippi Screener includes:

Encoding (Spelling) skills

Encoding (Spelling)

Alphabet knowledge

Alphabet Knowledge

Sound symbol recognition & Decoding skills

Nonsense Word Fluency

Phonological awareness and phonemic awareness

Phoneme Segmentation Fluency   (following Macdonald, et al.,2013)

Rapid naming

Rapid Automatized Naming



The Lexercise Mississippi Dyslexia Screener scoring is designed to facilitate the process of screening for language-literacy difficulties while permitting districts, schools and/or clinics to develop their own procedures for following up on students based on their pattern of scores.

For example, some districts may choose to refer students who score at-risk for a comprehensive assessment while other districts may choose to provide classroom intervention(s) and then re-assess them.  Districts may also choose to use specific interventions with students who score in the at-risk range on specific sub-tests (e.g., a specific spelling intervention with 1st graders who score in the at-risk range on the spelling sub-test). 

Lexercise Screener Sub-test

Automatic Scoring

Encoding (Spelling)

1 point for each correctly spelled grapheme, .5 for each incorrectly represented grapheme, 0 points for graphemes not represented.


NOTE: Because there is so little agreement about what spelling skills are expected in Kindergarten, scoring of the spelling assessment is very generous at this level. A Kindergartner can represent every letter-sound incorrectly and still pass this sub-test.  Only if they fail to represent most of the graphemes at all (e.g., draw pictures or fail to write any letters) will a Kindergartener fail this sub-test. 

Kindergarten: 1 -10 words administered

  0-5 - at risk  

  6-10 -some risk  

  11 + -low risk

 1st Grade: all words administered

  0-17 - at risk  

  18-24 -some risk  

  25 + -low risk


Alphabet Knowledge


25-36 some risk

37 and higher - low risk


Nonsense Word Fluency

Each box is worth 1 point.



  0-4 - at risk  

  5-12 -some risk  

  13 + -low risk

 1st Grade:

  0-13 - at risk  

  14-23 -some risk  

  24+ -low risk


Phoneme Segmentation Fluency



  0-6 - at risk  

  7-17 -some risk  

  17 + -low risk

 1st Grade:

  0-9 - at risk  

  10-34 -some risk  

  34+ -low risk


Rapid Automatized Naming



  over 115 sec.- at risk  

  107-114 sec. -some risk  

  106 or below -low risk

 1st Grade:

  over 100 sec.  - at risk  

  90-100 -some risk  

  Below 89 or below -low risk

AT RISK results on 3 or more subtests =  AT RISK 

AT RISK  on 1 or 2 subtests  = SOME RISK



Guidance for administering the Mississippi Screener

1. The Mississippi Screener should be administered by an education or clinical professional who has had basic training in the principles of individual assessment.

2. Professionals should consider child factors that might contraindicate or mitigate the use of this screener (e.g., sensory and/or physical disability, developmental delay, cultural and/or language differences).

3. The screener is designed with automated scoring to identify kindergarten and 1st grade students who need further evaluation. The screener is not designed as a progress-monitoring tool or for diagnostic purposes.



STEPS to administering the Lexercise Mississippi Screener:

1.   Print (in color) the 10 pages of Student Materials.

    a.   If the materials will be used with multiple students, consider laminating the pages or inserting them in plastic page protectors.

           b.  Putting these pages in a 3-ring binder will help keep them in order.                                             

2.  Click through the online screener to learn how each assessment is started and stopped and how the student’s responses are scored and recorded. (If you want, you can practice administering the screener to volunteer adults or children until you feel confident.)



3.  Decide how many children you plan to screen and how you will schedule them for screening. The Mississippi Screener is individually administered. Plan about 15 minutes per student.

4.  To save time, consider beginning your screening by administrating the Spelling Assessment in a group format before moving on to individual administration for the remaining assessments. Here’s how:

a.   Give each student a copy of the Spelling Assessment Student Response form (p. 3) and a pencil.

b.  Make sure each student writes his/her name on the top of the form.

c.   Navigate to the first assessment in the online screener and give the online directions to the group.

d.   Call out the spelling words as directed.

e.   Pick up the Student Response forms, grade them and put them in a file.

f.   Proceed to administer the rest of the screener to students individually. When a student presents for screening, begin by retrieving that student’s spelling Student Response form and mark their responses to the online scoring.




1) Blackwell, E., Durkee, N., Flynn, P. and Barrie-Blackley, S. (2014).  The Interscorer Reliability of the Lexercise Mississippi Dyslexia Screener.  Poster Session, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention. San Diego, CA.

Scorer reliability has been a problem with assessments of early reading skills, especially in assessments of phonological   segmentation (Reed & Sturges, 2012).  This research was undertaken to document the interscorer reliability for outcomes on the Lexercise Mississippi Screener.  In screening 21 1st graders, two Communication Sciences and Disorders graduate students agreed 90% of the time on the outcome, an acceptable level of agreement for a screening assessment.  Most disagreement occurred on the Phoneme Segmentation Subtest.   Additional guidance was added to this subtest to deal with the specific areas of disagreement.

2) Catts, H.W., Nielsen, D.C., Bridges, M.S., Lui, Y.S. and Bontempo, D.E. (2015) Early identification of reading  disabilities within an RtI framework. J. Learning Disabilities, 48 (3), p. 281-97.

This research supports the following 4 tasks for a screening battery in grades K-1: letter fluency, phonological awareness, rapid naming, non-word repetition.

3) Coady, J.A. (2013). Rapid Naming by Children With and Without Specific Language IMpairment. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, Vol. 56, p. 604-617.

This research explains why rapid naming tasks are included in language-literacy assessments with young children.

4) Georgiou, G.K., Parrila, R., Cui, Y. and Papadopoulos, T.C.  (2013).  Why is rapid automatized naming related to reading? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Vol. 115 (1), pp. 218-225.  DO  -

This research indicates that rapid automatized naming (RAN) predicts reading skills because "both involve serial processing and oral production of the names of the stimuli".

5) Jiban, C. (2013). Early Childhood Assessment: Implementing Effective Practice: A research-based guide to inform assessment planning in the early grades. Northwest Evaluation Association.

This guide provides an orientation to assessment (including screening) of young children.

6) Macdonald, H.H., Sullivan, A. L. and Walkins, M.W. (2013). Multivariate Screening Model for Later Word Reading Achievement: Predictive Utility of Pre-reading Skills and Cognitive Ability. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 29 (1), pp. 52-71.

These researchers found that a combination of predictor variables is more effective than single measures in predicting later word reading and reading fluency, with cognitive ability, phonemic awareness, and letter knowledge contributing significantly to the prediction of skill.

7) Reed, D.K. and  Sturges, K.M. (2012). An Examination of Assessment Fidelity in the Administration and Interpretation of Reading Tests. Remedial and Special Education, Vol 34 (5), 259-268.

8) Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children.Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

In the late 1990s this National Research Council report on preventing reading problems in young children concluded that the majority of reading problems could be prevented.

9) van den Bos, K.P., Zijlstra, B.J.H. and lutje Spelberg, H.C. (2002). Life-Span Date on Continuous Naming Speeds of Numbers, Letters, Colors and Pictured Objects and Word-Reading Speed, Scientific Studies of Reading, 6(1), 25-49.

This is one of the few studies of rapid naming across the lifespan.


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