Skip Navigation

National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance


Impact of Two Professional Development Interventions on Early Reading Instruction and Achievement

NCEE 2008-4030
September 2008

Study Participants

To test the effectiveness of the PD interventions in a variety of local contexts that served the study’s population of interest, the study sought a sample of schools from six urban school districts that serve substantial numbers of non-English language learner (ELL) students from low-income households.5 The study was further limited to districts that:

  • Administered a standardized reading achievement test in the second grade that could be used as the study’s key outcome measure
  • Were not already providing districtwide professional development in reading instruction of the same type and level of intensity as that being provided by the Early Reading PD Interventions Study
  • Were using one of the two scientifically based reading series targeted by the study as the core second grade reading program, and had been using the program for at least one year prior to the study.6

Six eligible districts agreed to participate, located in urban or urban fringe areas across four eastern and mid-western states. Each district provided six to 24 study schools, producing a total sample size of 90 schools, which met the study’s recruitment target. Table E-1 shows that in comparison to the average urban/urban fringe school, the study schools had a significantly higher percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a significantly higher percentage of African American students, and a significantly lower percentage of White and Hispanic students. Study schools had an average of three second grade teachers and 61 second grade students in regular classrooms. (Self-contained special education classes were excluded.) This resulted in an analysis sample in the 90 schools of 270 teachers and about 5,500 students for the spring of the treatment year (table E-2), 250 teachers for fall of the follow-up year, and 254 teachers and 4,614 students for spring of the follow-up year.


Summary of the PD Interventions Evaluated

Teacher Institute and Seminar Series (Treatment A)

Treatment A involved eight content-focused institute and seminar days, implemented during summer 2005 and the 2005–2006 school year. The teacher institute and seminar series was based on Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS), a professional development curriculum developed by Louisa Moats (2005) and modified for the purposes of the study. LETRS consists of topic-based modules that align with the NRP’s essential components of reading instruction. The LETRS developer and lead facilitator, with oversight from the study’s intervention team, designed the eight institute and seminar days (48 hours of PD) to focus on topics relevant to second grade reading instruction, relying primarily on the module contents and accompanying trainer materials. The topics of the eight institute and seminar days were: (1) the challenge of learning to read; (2) phoneme awareness; (3) spellography/phonics; (4) fluency and analyzing student work samples; (5) vocabulary; (6) review of phonemic awareness, phonics, analyzing student work samples, and an introduction to differentiated instruction; (7) reading comprehension; and (8) review of vocabulary, reading comprehension, analyzing student work samples, and differentiated instruction.

Added In-School Coaching (Treatment B)

In addition to the institute and seminar days, treatment B provided a half-time coach in each participating school to work with second grade teachers (an average of three teachers per school). The study’s coaching model was designed to increase teachers’ understanding of the content learned in the institute series and to provide ongoing practice and support for applying their new knowledge and implementing their core reading program effectively. It was expected that teachers would receive, on average, 60 hours of coaching during the school year.

Coaches received three types of training to prepare them for their roles and responsibilities. First, the study coaches attended all LETRS institute and seminar days with their assigned school(s) to become familiar with the content. In addition, AIR contracted with the Consortium on Reading Excellence (CORE) to deliver a three-day coaching institute and four on-site follow-up trainings in the coaches’ schools during the implementation year that focused on the coach’s role in implementing effective reading instruction in the classroom; coaching individual teachers using a multi-step cycle; drawing on assessment data to identify and address student needs; and organizing grade level teacher meetings to build teachers’ capacity to examine student work and plan instruction.


Six eligible districts agreed to participate, located in urban or urban fringe areas across four eastern and mid-western states. Each district provided six to 24 study schools, producing a total sample size of 90 schools, which met the study’s recruitment target. Table E-1 shows that in comparison to the average urban/urban fringe school, the study schools had a significantly higher percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a significantly higher percentage of African American students, and a significantly lower percentage of White and Hispanic students. Study schools had an average of three second grade teachers and 61 second grade students in regular classrooms. (Self-contained special education classes were excluded.) This resulted in an analysis sample in the 90 schools of 270 teachers and about 5,500 students for the spring of the treatment year (table E-2), 250 teachers for fall of the follow-up year, and 254 teachers and 4,614 students for spring of the follow-up year.

Top


5 Schools met the criteria if they had 50 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced price lunch and less than 50 percent of students identified as ELL.
6 The study focused on schools that used one of two core reading programs to ensure compatibility between the content of the PD and the instructional context in which the content would be applied and to minimize variability in the reading curriculum while still providing a test of the PD in multiple settings. The two reading programs were selected based on their fit with the planned PD and input from a panel of reading and PD experts. The Early Reading PD Interventions Study is a study of the impact of the specific PD interventions used; it is not designed to test the effectiveness of the reading programs used in the participating districts.