Lexia - Program Critique

Kim Galles, Kristy Green, & Nicole Iatarola

Rationale & Background

Lexia Learning was founded in 1984 by Bob Lemire, whose son Bo was a struggling reader. Mr. Lemire went to his friend Dr. Edwin Cole, a noted neurologist and head of the Reading Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital. (Dr. Cole's colleagues were Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham - creators of the Orton Gillingham Reading Program.) After, testing, Bo was found to be dyslexic and did receive tutoring and attended a private school for dyslexic boys. Because Mr. Littleton and Dr. Cole wanted to help other dyslexics that may not have the resources they need, they went to their friend Dr. Littleton Meeks, an expert in technology. Together, and with the help of grants from the National Institute for Health and Child Development, they created Lexia Learning. They wanted this skill development software program, at a low cost, to reach all types of students experiencing reading difficulty. In 2013, Lexia Learning was acquired by Rosetta Stone.


Lexia uses adaptive technology to create a personalized, student-centered learning experience for students approximately in Pre-Kindergarten- 5th grade. Student performance drives the learning in a scaffolded format within 6 areas of Literacy.

  1. Phonological Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Structural Analysis
  4. Fluency
  5. Vocabulary
  6. Comprehension

“Effective teachers act as decision makers who consider both their students’ needs as developing readers and writers and the qualities of the the texts to be read.” (Lipson & Wixson, 2013, p. 262) Lexia assists teachers in making decisions on their students needs through My Lexia. My Lexia is a user friendly site for teachers which shares students' progress, goals, and action plans with instructional support and resources in planning core instruction as well as, interventions for selected students if needed. “Although materials do exert a strong influence, it is clear that the way materials are embedded in instruction and the way they are used also has a profound effect on student learning.” (Lipson & Wixson, 2013, p.245)

On page 210, Chapter 5: “The ability of a program to deliver on these key elements is often a function of the knowledge and skill of the program coordinator and/or interventionist.”

"Phonological awareness is important because students who understand these abstract language components learn to read more quickly than students who do not." (pg 48 Caldwell & Leslie)

"Although the vast majority of adolescents have mastered the various components of phonological awareness, students diagnosed as dyslexic at a young age have been found to continue to have phonological weaknesses in adolescence both with spelling and reading rate when compared to average and superior readers of the same age (Shaywitz et al., 1999)." (pg 62 Caldwell & Leslie)

"Students need to be actively involved in real reading, and teacher read-alouds coupled with student discussion are just as important as phonological activities in developing reading proficiency." (pg 63 Caldwell & Leslie)

Lexia Published Research

Lexia stands as one of the most rigorously researched, independently evaluated, and respected reading programs in the world. In numerous studies published in peer-reviewed journals, Lexia Reading has been found to accelerate the development of critical fundamental literacy skills in elementary grades. Lexia Strategies has also been shown to be effective in remediating struggling readers in middle school. The six published studies summarized below followed rigorous scientific standards, including the use of control groups, pre-testing/post-testing, standardized and norm-referenced reading tests, and stringent statistical data analysis. To learn more, please download Lexia's research overview (PDF).

Building Early Literacy Skills

The three studies that follow were published in Reading Psychology and show that Lexia Reading improves early literacy skills when used in conjunction with classroom reading instruction. The studies were conducted in an urban Massachusetts school district.

  • Kindergartners using Lexia Reading significantly outperformed students in the control group on the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test®, Level PR (Pre-Reading), which measures phonological awareness, letter-sound correspondence, and listening comprehension. Group differences were more pronounced for low performers. [Macaruso, P., & Walker, A. (2008). The efficacy of computer-assisted instruction for advancing literacy skills in kindergarten children. Reading Psychology, 29, 266–287.]
  • In a subsequent Kindergarten study, focusing on low performers, students using Lexia Reading made significantly greater gains than a control group on the Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GRADE), Level K. The test measures phonological awareness, early literacy skills, letter-sound correspondence, listening comprehension, and word reading. Group differences were notable for the word reading subtest. [Macaruso, P., & Rodman, A. (2011). Efficacy of computer-assisted instruction for the development of early literacy skills in young children. Reading Psychology, 32, 172–196.]
  • Preschool students using Lexia Reading made significantly greater gains than the control group on the Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GRADE) Level P, used to assess phonological awareness, visual skills, conceptual knowledge, and listening comprehension. The greatest gains were made in phonological awareness. [Macaruso, P., & Rodman, A. (2011). Efficacy of computer-assisted instruction for the development of early literacy skills in young children. Reading Psychology, 32, 172–196.]

Supporting English Language Learners

This study, published in 2011 in the Bilingual Research Journal, demonstrates that Lexia Reading supports English Language Learners (ELL students) in acquiring fundamental literacy skills. The study was conducted in Kindergarten classes using a bilingual education model in a rural Texas district, where all students received reading instruction based on a core, phonics-based curriculum.

  • Students who used Lexia Reading in addition to core reading instruction showed greater gains than a control group in overall reading, phonological awareness, and word reading. The Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GRADE), Level K, was used as the reading measure. [Macaruso, P., & Rodman, A. (2011). Benefits of computer-assisted instruction to support reading acquisition in English Language Learners. Bilingual Research Journal, 34, 301–315.
Lexia assists, English Language Learners in supporting native language instruction in Spanish, Mandarin, Haitian-Creole, Arabic, and Portuguese. A picture glossary, as well as punctuation and grammar guides for words are included as learning support tools.

Closing the Gap

Lexia Reading supports literacy gains among at-risk elementary students, as documented in a study published in 2006 in the Journal of Research in Reading. The study followed first graders in an urban school district in Massachusetts, where Lexia Reading was used to supplement a core, phonics-based reading program.

  • Title I students in the Lexia group made significantly greater gains than Title I students in a control group on the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test, Level BR (Beginning Reading), which measures letter-sound correspondences for consonants and vowels, and basic story words. Moreover, Title I students in the Lexia group closed the performance gap when compared at post-test to non-Title I students in the Lexia group. [Macaruso, P., Hook, P.E., & McCabe, R. (2006). The efficacy of computer-based supplementary phonics programs for advancing reading skills in at-risk elementary students. Journal of Research in Reading, 29, 162–172.]

Helping Adolescent Readers Advance

A study published in 2009 in the European Journal of Special Needs Education shows the effectiveness of Lexia Strategies beyond the elementary level. This study tracked the performance of sixth- and seventh-grade remedial reading students in a Utah school district, where Lexia's Strategies supplemented intense phonics-based reading instruction.

  • Students in the Lexia group made significant gains relative to a control group on the Word Attack subtest, from the Woodcock-Johnson® III Tests of Achievement. [Macaruso, P., & Walker, A. (2009). Benefits of computer-assisted instruction for struggling readers in middle school. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 24, 103–113.]


Kim currently serves as a literacy coach in a large district that has implemented Lexia district wide. The cost is very large, exceeding $50,000 for the year. The results are being analyzed every month by a team of administrators, teachers, and coaches. There greatest concerns revolve around the consistency of implementation by the teachers. When looking at their data, they noticed that students were often put on Lexia for larger amounts of time than recommended. Students were going through the units quickly, but when given the placement test after completing a unit, they could not pass it with the required 90% proficiency. The My Lexia system support provides many resources for teachers to create and implement action plans for striving readers. Individual, small group, and class lessons are available based on the data from the Lexia program. They plan to continue using Lexia next year for all students.

I would recommend using Lexia for a striving reader. The program is motivating, provides goal-setting, and rewards for students when they accomplish goals. While the Lexia program itself, is for individual practice using technology, the data provided to teachers and support staff can be valuable for instruction within a RTI framework.