top of page


Q: What is the P-O-S-E©​ ?

A: The P-O-S-E©: Phonological / Orthographic Substitution Evaluation © is a criterion-referenced assessment instrument, designed to probe for substitution errors in a child's phonological (spoken) and orthographic (written, scored as equivalent phonology) representations of target short vowels presented in monosyllabic non-word and real word spelling and reading tasks. I.e. an incorrect phoneme is substituted for the target phoneme. Silent /e/ rule test items are incorporated as a cross-check and validation of the depth of short vowel proficiency. Outcomes provide prescriptive interventional direction when indicated.

short vowels grade 3
Q: Why does my school district need the P-O-S-E© ?

A: The P-O-S-E©: Phonological / Orthographic Substitution Evaluation will provide your school district with cost-effective, RTI  tool to identify and remediate  structural inadequacies in the  reading/spelling short vowel proficiency of students at the critical third grade nexus of learning-to-read and reading-to-learn.


Alpha development was sited in the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District from 2005 forward. A full year of P-O-S-E © beta testing and targeted intervention was carried out in the Mineola Union Free School District, Long Island, Nassau County, New York. This district contains a high Spanish and Portuguese ESL population.


The Mineola UFSD Grade 3 response to intervention  demonstrated major gains in short vowel proficiency. Intervention teams were comprised of teachers of Reading, English as Second Language, Special Education, Speech-Language Pathology and General Education. While not necessarily causally related, for the academic years 2012-13 and 2013-14, Grade 3 demonstrated Grade Level-appropriate advances in literacy scores as measured on the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment and the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress- Reading.


The fact that in 2013, Grade 3 produced the highest in-district performance levels in NY ELA scores among all grades, 3 through 8 must be interpreted in light of subsequently analyzed data suggesting that the NYS ELA for Grade 3, 2014 is both invalid and unreliable as an index of literacy.


Based on this positive outcome, P-O-S-E(c) assessment and intervention was applied to a sample of consensus-rated high risk Grade 2 students in 2013-14 (analysis to be posted). In 2014-15, P-O-S-E(c) assessment and intervention is being applied to the entire second grade (N~210).

Q:  How does the P-O-S-E(c) correlate with accepted measures of literacy?

A. The Common Core Standards Initiative (CCSI) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) designate short vowel proficiency as a foundational skill to be acquired by Grade 2. In the Mineola, NY U.F.S.D. for the academic year 2012-2013, 191 Grade 3 students were matched for Baseline and Response-to-Intervention (RTI) scores on the P-O-S-E(c), Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarks, Northwest Evaluation Association, Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA / MAP) and New York State English Language Arts (NYS ELA) test.


A multiple correlation matrix was applied to all these measures for 191 Grade 3 students utilizing more than 1300 data points. Statistically significant (P < .0001) meaningful correlations were obtained among all paired measures. P-O-S-E(c)-based correlations are negative because the test is reported as percent error score


In Plainview-Old Bethpage S.D., 2006-2007, Grade 3 baseline P-O-S-E(c) data achieved a comparable  0.62 correlation with the F&P Benchmark scores (N=78). The P-O-S-E(c) also produced a 0.39 correlation with the NYS ELA (N=253). However the 2006-07 ELA preceded the integration of Common Core State Standards (CCSS).


(Click the table below for more detailed  intertest correlation data.)





Q: What are short vowels?

A: Corresponding to the five American English alphabetic vowels: A, E, I, O and U, the five basic short vowel sounds are: ă  [ æ]* as in "bat";  ĕ  [ ɛ ] as in "bet";  ĭ  [ I ] as in "bit";  ŏ  [ ɑ ] as in "bob" and ŭ [ ʌ ] as in "but".  In American English, the long vowel sounds: ā, ī and ō  are typically diphthongs;  i.e. monosyllabic combinations of two vowel sounds involving a quick but smooth transition from one vowel to another. Short vowels are typically taught before long vowels.


*American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) phonetic symbols, typically used in educational contexts are shown in boldface.
[International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)  equivalent phonetic symbols used by Speech-Language Pathologists

are shown in brackets/italics.]

Q: What are long vowels?

A: Corresponding to the five American English alphabetic vowels: A, E, I, O and U, the five basic  long vowel sounds are:  ā  [ eI ] as in "bait";   ē  [ i ] as in "beet";  ī  [ aI ] as in "bite";      ō  [ oU ]  as in "boat";  ū  [u] as in "boot". ī and ū are diphthongs, consistently;  i.e.  combinations of two vowel sounds involving a quick but smooth transition from one vowel to another. ā and ō can be either monophthongal (single vowel sound) or diphthongal.


In single syllable words (monosyllables), the addition of a final "silent /e/" converts a short vowel sound to a long vowel sound. I,e.: "bit" (bĭt) [bIt] + /e/="bite" (bīt) [baIt]. I.e: "the long vowel says its name."

​Q: What is the silent /e/ rule?

A. While there are lesser, monosyllabic exceptional applications for a final "silent" /e/, the main effect is to cause the preceding (short) vowel "say its name"; i.e transforming a short vowel into a long vowel pronunciation. For example, "hat" > "hate", "bit" > "bite", "rod" > "rode" and "tub" > "tube". [Other monosyllabic final silent /e/ effects include preventing words from ending in "v" as in "have" and  "give" or "u" as in "due" or "true" and softening the final consonants "c" and "g" as in "mac" > "mace" or "log" > "loge".]

Q: How are spelling and reading short vowel representations compared in the P-O-S-E©​ ?

A. In scoring a P-O-S-E reading task,  the examiner transcribes  the student's oral representation of the read target vowel within a test item as a phonological element. In a P-O-S-E spelling task, the examiner converts the student's written representation of the dictated target vowel to an equivalent phonological element in General American English pronunciation.  I.e., if that spelled response was pronounced by a model reader, what would be the phonological outcome? This implied phonological response facilitates a comparison of both reading and spelling within a single dimension as phonology (reading) and implied phonology (spelling). The P-O-S-E is a test of phonological proficiency, not necessarily of spelling accuracy.

Q: What constitutes a correct P-O-S-E test item response?

A:  A correct response means that a child's phonological (read-spoken) and  orthographic (spelled-written, scored as equivalent phonology)  representations of the target short vowel are consistent with the target vowel.

Q: What is a Phonological / Orthographic Substitution Error?

A: Phonological / Orthographic errors occur when a child's phonologic (read/spoken) or orthographic (spelled- written, scored as equivalent phonology) contextual representation deviates from the target  vowel. When reported as a point at the intersection of two-dimensional coordinates (F1 / F2) on the vowel quadrangle, substitution errors can be described in terms of deviations of direction and distance relative to the target vowel. The area immediately surrounding the target vowel is known as the phonological neighborhood. The most frequent category of substitution errors is found in the phonological neighboorhood. The second most frequent category of  errors involves substituting long vowel cognates for short vowels and vice versa.

Q: Which vowels present the greatest number of phonological / orthographic substitutions?

A: The table of errors shown below is based on an analysis of 33,000 3rd grade P-O-S-E test item responses from 275 students in three schools of the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District. District Demographics: 80% White; 15% Asian 4% Spanish/Hispanic; 0% Black.

short vowels grade 3

Q: How does ESL impact American English short vowel proficiency?

A:  Vowel sets of other nationalities, including English-speaking nations, may differ in number of phonemically distinct vowels and in their acoustic phonetic composition.The table below, for example, illustrates the source of difficulty for first language Spanish speakers learning the American English short vowel contrasts.

short vowels grade 3

In the Spanish language, there are five invariant, monophthongal vowel sounds linked to the five letters of the alphabet, above. American English (AE) has five monophthongal short vowel sounds and five long vowel sounds ("the vowel says its letter name") for the same five letters. One long vowel (long E: ē) is consistently monophthongal (single vowel sound). Two are consistently diphthongs (long I and long U). Two (long A and long O) are monophthongal or diphthongal depending on context. (boat vs. bow; date vs. day).


There are significant variations in AE spellings for long vowel sounds (lye, lied, light, line, by, buy, height, guide, quiet, alibi...) In addition, there are other AE non-diphthongal allophonic vowel sounds  such as ô in "law", ŏŏ as in "put" and ōō as in lute. For P-O-S-E(c) testing purposes, ū is scored as a correct core phoneme for both yōō (as in "you") or ōō (as in "boot").


Adding to the complexity of the task for non-english speakers learning AE are the regional variations in vowel pronunciation within the U.S.A. For example, "I'd like some pie." in some southern states might be articulated as "Odd lock some pah." A classical Massachusetts version of "Park the car" becomes "Pak the ka..." In the northern midwest "thank you" becomes "thinkyoo". In Southern California (valspeak), "for sure" becomes "fur shurr".


Languages using phonetically-based non-western alphabetic characters also present phonological/orthographic challenges in learning AE. Languages using iconic script (e.g. Chinese) rather than phonetic script are uniquely challenging for those newly acquiring AE.

Q: Are there different categories of Phonological /       
Orthographic substitution errors?

A: Yes, and they are not mutually exclusive.

         P-O-S-E errors can range from adjacent to remote. 

Adjacent means that the expressed short vowel is minimally displaced from the target vowel within the phonological  neighborhood.​  Remote means that the expressed short vowel is widely removed  from the target location on the vowel quadrangle (q.v. below,) i.e. outside the phonological neighborhood.



​         P-O-S-E errors can present as long vowel substitutions for short vowel items and short vowel substitutions for long vowel (silent /e/) items.


        P-O-S-E errors  can be mirrored or disjunctive. 

Mirrored means that the same short vowel displacement locus is reflected in both the phonologic and orthographic expressions of the target.  Disjunctive means that the short vowel displacement locus differs between  phonologic and orthographic expressions of the target.   


        P-O-S-E errors can be systematic or random. 

​Systematic means that there is a consistency in locus of the expressed  short vowel displacement on similar vowel test items.  Random indicates a non-specific dispersion of errors within the vowel space.


       P-O-S-E item omissions of  target vowels or entire test items are also reported as (null) substitution errors.

Q: What are the consequences of significant P-O-S-E errors?​

A: A child with significant P-O-S-E errors may manifest a reading level below his or her potential. This condition, in turn, may reflect negatively in other academic activities that require reading for achievement

​Q: What is P-O-S-E Vowel Training?

A: P-O-S-E Vowel Training is systematic vowel training to correct Phonological-Orthographic Displacement  typically implementedand integrated in an educational context  Components of the training process can be applied by reading specialists, speech-language pathologists, ESL specialists (where applicable) and classroom teachers.

​Q: What is included in the basic P-O-S-E test kit box?

A. The licensed P-O-S-E basic test kit includes the following components  with supplies for testing one class of 25 students. Once a school district is licensed, additional kits or supplies may be purchased for testing additional classes or for retesting.

    25 copies of the four page, 120 item  P-O-S-E test form ncluding                Spelling non-words (Sn), Spelling real words, Reading on-words 

        and Reading real words.

    25 copies of the P-O-S-E summary score sheet and therapy notes.

    25 copies of the student non-word Spelling form.

    25 copies of the student real word Spelling form.

  • Teacher Spelling list card for non-word items (Sn).

  • Teacher Spelling list card for real word items (Sr).

  • Student Reading list card for non-word items (Rn).

  • Student Reading list card for non-word items (Rr).


Computer scoring application CD for documenting and storing baseline and response to intervention (RTI) P-O-S-E individual student outcomes

  • ​​Basic P-O-S-E test manual.

  • ​Computer scoring application manual.

  • Classroom teacher manual.


  • 3 P-O-S-E dry erase vowel training boards.

  • 4 dry erase pens.

  • 5 P-O-S-E short vowels training cards.

Q. How is the P-O-S-E obtained?

A.  The P-O-S-E is accessed on an exclusively licensed basis. Upon receipt of of formal purchase order for the basic P-O-S-E test kit, the school district is issued a license to use the test, to purchase additional P-O-S-E test kits, replacement test forms and supplies, to access privileged areas of the P-O-S-E website and to contract for optional data processing and consultative services.

short vowels grade 3
Q. Can P-O-S-E test forms be duplicated for re-use?

A. The P-O-S-E test has been granted a U.S. copyright through the offices of Ropes & Gray, LLP (NY). Reproduction of forms, testing materials, programs and manuals  is prohibited by law. P-O-S-E  test forms, testing materials, programs and manuals may be purchased only by P-O-S-E-licensed entities.

Q: How does a school district apply for a P-O-S-E(c) license?



It is suggested that the School District order a single P-O-S-E test kit with license in the academic year prior to considering a comprehensive Grade 3 Baseline / RTI program. Because of the required academic and clinical  training in phonology and the assessment of phonological dysfunction, a key member of the SLP staff is preferred to act as P-O-S-E coordinator and management interface.



Click this text to open  sample P-O-S-E(c) purchase order request forms from a client school district which may serve as a template for the school district business office. When a district-authorized purchase order has been received, a license and P-O-S-E Scoring Application pass code will be issued unique to that school district. Additional P-O-S-E test kits and supplies my be reordered using the district pass code and will be shipped to the originally designated school district address only.

Q: What are the staff and time requirements to administer the P-O-S-E(c) in a school setting?

A. The P-O-S-E(c) Spelling subtests of 30 monosyllabic non-words and 30 monosyllabic real words can be administered effectively to groups as large as three third grade classes of 20 children each. Bluetooth or FM support amplification is necessary beyond as single class. A group of 60 children can be tested on the Spelling subtests in 30 minutes. It is suggested that supportive  and interventional personnel be selected from SLP,  Reading, ESL, Special Ed and Gen Ed staff. Because of the required academic and clinical  training in phonology and the assessment of phonological dysfunction, a key member of the SLP staff is preferred to act as P-O-S-E coordinator and management interface.


The P-O-S-E(c) Reading subtests of 30 monosyllabic non-words and 30 monosyllabic real words  can be administered by Special Education, Reading and Speech staff. Examiners are situated outside the classroom minimizing loss of  instructional time. A class of twenty grade 3 students can be tested for the Reading subtests in 40 minutes averaging four minutes per child.


Click this text  to view a representative organizational chart of P-O--S-E(c) implementation in a school setting.

Q: What is the vowel quadrangle?

A: The vowel quadrangle (below) is a two-dimensional graphic approximation to an essentially three-dimensional vowel production array, omitting the temporal element. This useful display demonstrates the unique  "locations" of both short and long vowels on a common  set of X /Y axes. 

short vowels grade 3

In this matrix, auditory identification of vowel sounds is primarily based on the relationship between the two primary resonances of the variable vocal tract as they shape the spectrum of the harmonically rich acoustic output of the vocal folds. These resonances are called  formants.

The first formant, lower in frequency, is called F1. It is attributable to the physical shape of the larger, posterior part of the variable shape vocal tract known as the pharyngeal cavity. F2 is the primary resonance of the smaller, anterior, oral cavity. Tongue placement and vocal tract shape determine the F1 / F2 relationship.


The figure below approximates the range of tongue peak positions relative to vowel location on the quadrangle. Tongue position is described as front-mid-back (or front-central-back) and high-mid-low (or close-mid-open) within the oral cavity.

short vowels grade 3

Example I:  The short vowel: o in  bob  (alternatively, [a ]  in the International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA) would be considered a "low / back"  (or open / back) vowel.

short vowels grade 3

Example II:  The long vowel: ē in   beet  (alternatively, [ i  ]  in the International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA) would be considered a "high / front"  (or close/front) vowel.

short vowels grade 3

Q: What are vowel formants and how do they relate to the vowel quadrangle?

A. The  fundamental frequency  (Fo) produced in the larynx defines vocal pitch which is higher for child and female voices, lower for male voices. Beyond that, shaping of the vocal tract creates emphases in certain frequency ranges called formants. Most critical for defining vowel perception are the first (F1) and second (F2) formants. Click the image below to view the relationship of formants to the various American English vowel sounds and the various systems for naming and locating these sounds on a vowel quadrangle format.

short vowels grade 3

Q: Using the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) phonetic notation, common to educational settings, can American English vowels be presented in a vowel quadrangle context with audio examples?

A. Yes. The image below presents an  AHD display of non-diphthongal General American English (GAE) vowels sounds in a vowel quadrangle format. Click the arrow next to each AHD symbol to hear the basic phonetic element.


Among the five GAE long vowels, only one, ē [ i ] as in "beet",  is consistently non-diphthongal and poorly represented in silent /e/ monosyllabic words. The table below offers examples of monophthongal and diphthongal long vowels. Click the arrow next to each AHD symbol to hear the basic phonetic element.

short vowels grade 3

Q: Can P-O-S-E(c) errors be displayed in a vowel quadrangle format on an individual case basis?

A. When the P-O-S-E scoring service is used, detailed case reports are available that include a vowel quadrangle presentation for Spelling (Sn+Sr) and Reading (Rn+Rr) errors for each of the five short vowels.

short vowels grade 3
bottom of page