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IES Grant

Title: Impact of the WRITE Program on English Learner Achievement and Teacher Instructional Practice
Center: NCER Year: 2011
Principal Investigator: Haas, Eric Awardee: WestEd
Program: Policies, Practices, and Programs to Support English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $2,691,599
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A110176

Co-Principal Investigators: Jamal Abedi (University of California, Davis); Chris Faltis (University of California, Davis)

Purpose: English language learners (ELL) consistently score below grade-level on state standardized tests in all content areas, and much below non-ELL students. The persistent performance gap between ELLs and non-ELLs increases as the level of language demand increases. Even ELL students who have progressed beyond basic levels of English proficiency continue to struggle with academic demands. The Writing Reform Institute for Teaching Excellence (WRITE) Tier 2 program is designed to transition ELL students to fluency in academic English writing, including instructional foci on specific content knowledge, critical thinking, and meta-cognitive skills, so they can successfully learn in English-only classrooms. This project will test the efficacy of the WRITE Tier 2 program in meeting this goal with middle-school students.

Project Activities: The efficacy of the WRITE Tier 2 program will be tested in two studies, a randomized control trial (RCT) and a quasi-experimental study. In the RCT, 80 middle schools with English language development classrooms for ELLs at the intermediate to advanced levels of English proficiency will be randomly assigned to implement the WRITE Tier 2 program or continue with usual instruction. The efficacy of the WRITE Tier 2 program will be evaluated by comparing performance on assessments of writing, English Language Arts, English language development, math, science, social science, and meta-cognition for treatment and control students. The quasi-experimental study will provide information on the influence of the WRITE Tier 2 program on student outcomes when it has been an established school writing program for ELL students. Forty middle and high schools that have used the WRITE Tier 2 program for two or more years will be randomly selected to participate. A comparison group will be constructed to include forty schools with similar characteristics that have not implemented the WRITE Tier 2 program. Students in the treatment and comparison schools will be compared in regard to similar outcomes as those in the RCT.

Products: Scholarly reports and journal articles on the efficacy of the WRITE program will be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The evaluation studies will be completed in 160 middle and/or high schools in California.

Population: Approximately 210 English Language Development teachers and 4,000 English Learners with intermediate to advanced English language skills will be participants in the two efficacy studies.

Intervention: The WRITE Tier 2 writing program uses a curriculum with integrated assessments aligned to English Language Arts standards that are specifically designed to prepare ELL students to think critically and use academic English. The WRITE Tier 2 program uses a three-pronged approach in teaching writing with ELL students. Students are taught meta-cognitive strategies regarding 'what good writers do'; about the genre-specific nature of academic discourse; and explicit writing skills. The WRITE Institute trains teachers to use their ELL students' writing to inform and target their instruction through a trainer-of-trainers model that includes quarterly instructional practice training and group grading, across schools and districts, of anchor writing assignments.

Research Design and Methods: Eighty middle schools will be recruited to participate in the RCT. Half of these schools will be randomly assigned to participate in the WRITE Tier 2 program, and the remainder will continue with business as usual. All English Language Development teachers in the treatment group will participate in the WRITE Tier 2 training in the summer of Year 1 and Year 2. A subset of these teachers will attend Lead Trainer workshops and will serve as trainers in their schools. The control group will be offered the opportunity to participate in the WRITE Tier 2 program in Year 3 of the study. Student assessments will be collected the fall and spring of Years 1 and 2 in both the treatment and control schools. Students will complete surveys to measure meta-cognition in the spring and fall of each school year, and teachers will complete surveys about teaching writing and other instructional practices at the beginning and end of each school year. Fidelity of implementation will be measured by collecting information on training attendance, teacher surveys and interviews in the spring and fall, and through a school survey administered at the beginning of each school year.

The quasi-experimental study will randomly select 40 middle and high schools in California that have used the WRITE Tier 2 program for at least two years. A comparison group will include schools with similar characteristics in regard to student demographics and English language proficiency that have not used the WRITE Tier 2 program. Standardized student assessments collected in the fall and spring will be used to study the relationship between program participation and gains in writing, English language arts, and other academic outcomes.

Control condition: In the RCT, middle schools will be randomly assigned to participate in the treatment or control conditions. In the quasi-experimental study, a comparison group of schools will be created using matching criteria of student demographics and English language proficiency.

Key Measures: Teacher will complete surveys and interviews to measure implementation and treatment fidelity. Student outcomes include achievement in writing (based on the California state standardized tests in English proficiency (CELDT) and English Language Arts (CST)); English Language Arts (vocabulary, reading comprehension, and literary response and analysis); California state standardized tests in math, science, and social science; and tests of meta-cognition.

Data Analytic Strategy: The effectiveness of the WRITE Tier 2 program will be examined primarily by comparing the performance on state assessments of ELL students in the treatment group with their counterparts in the control group. Multilevel analysis will be used to study the treatment impact. Student gains in Year 1, Year 2, and across both years in the treatment versus control group will be evaluated using a two-tailed test. Transcripts from student and teacher interviews will be independently coded by two coders using constant comparative methodology with an emphasis on the respondent's natural language. Coding will be refined until satisfactory levels of inter-rater reliability are obtained. Following analysis of the ELL student outcome data, a causal process analysis will be conducted using survey and interviews of participating teachers.

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