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IES Grant

Title: Burst: Reading Efficacy Study
Center: NCER Year: 2012
Principal Investigator: Rowan, Brian Awardee: University of Michigan
Program: Education Technology      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (9/1/201210/31/2016) Award Amount: $3,243,460
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A120811

Previous Grant Number: R305A120639
Previous Principal Investigator: Larry Berger
Previous University Affiliation: Wireless Generation

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the efficacy of Burst:Reading, a fully-developed software-based reading intervention designed to improve the literacy skills of students in grades K-3. In this intervention, students' reading ability will be repeatedly assessed and scored dynamically using handheld devices, thereby allowing teachers to make data-driven, in-the-moment instructional decisions at both the individual- and classroom-levels. For example, the assessment data can be used to inform which skills to emphasize for a particular student and how to group students who have similar ability profiles.

Project Activities: Researchers will test the efficacy of the intervention by conducting a four-year longitudinal, randomized control trial. The intervention will be delivered to students in Grades K-3 across four years, thereby allowing some students to receive the intervention for more than one year (e.g., those in kindergarten during Years 1 and 3 will receive the intervention for four and two years, respectively). Implementing teachers will receive training in use of the software, which is intended to increase their ability to make data-driven instructional decisions for individual students with confidence. The researchers will also collect information about instructional fidelity and classroom activities.

Products: The products of this project will be results describing the efficacy of the Burst:Reading intervention on literacy skills. The team will also produce peer reviewed publications.


Setting: The study will be conducted in elementary schools in cities in four different states: Maryland, Louisiana, New Jersey and North Carolina.

Sample: The sample for this study includes students in grades K-3 and their teachers from four school districts. The students come from diverse backgrounds: White (19 percent), Black (19 percent), Hispanic (57 percent) and Asian (about 3 percent). On average, 43 percent of students in these districts are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Participants will come from approximately 50 schools, with 12 teachers and 600 students per school on average, for a total of about 600 teachers and 30,000 students.

Intervention: Burst:Reading is a fully developed software intervention that both assesses reading and related skills (e.g., phonological awareness) of students in grades K-3 and provides aligned instructional content. Teachers use handheld devices to administer reading assessments individually to students that cover multiple skill categories. This allows the research-based and technology-driven algorithms to create profiles of each student's skills and instructional needs. Additionally, the algorithms consider classroom characteristics (e.g., staffing capacities, time constraints, etc.) and generate small-group suggestions based on students' skill profiles.

The system offers lessons with appropriate material for the various groups, with instructional cycles lasting about 9-18 days, followed by progress monitoring assessments, resulting in additional material covering the same skills or new material (and possibly grouping) covering new skills.

In addition to modules related to instruction and assessment, the intervention also includes a coherent set of professional development modules covering content knowledge and instruction on using the intervention.

Research Design and Methods: Schools will be randomly assigned to either the treatment or control condition. Schools in the treatment condition will implement Burst:Reading throughout the school year and their teachers will receiving training and support in its use both prior to and during the school year. This longitudinal study will last four years, with the intervention delivered across Grades K-3 in each year. Throughout the study, the team will collect classroom observations intended to measure instructional fidelity and a set of standardized and developer-created measures of student outcomes.

Control Condition: Schools assigned to the control condition will not receive the intervention and will operate under typical conditions, which could include the use of technology-based reading assessments, and/or technology-delivered instructional content.

Key Measures: The project will include both standardized and developer-created measures. The standardized measure will be the Stanford Achievement Test, Version 10, which includes an overall reading test and sub-skill measures of reading ability. The team will also use the developer-created mCLASS®. To administer this test, teachers use a handheld device to record data as they screen students with a series of short, individual assessments in component skills of reading comprehension, such as phonological awareness, decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Data Analytic Strategy: A three-level hierarchical linear regression model (students nested within teachers within schools) will be used to account for the effect of clustering on the variance structure of the data. In addition to comparing student outcome performance with and without the intervention, the data analysis will examine dosage. Specifically, the team will explore the effects of participating in the intervention for one, two, three, or four years. Mediating and moderating factors include student-level (demographic background, prior achievement) and classroom-level characteristics (e.g., core reading program, staff composition, availability to resources, class size, instructional practices).


Working Paper

Rowan, B., Hansen, B. B., White, M., Lycurgus, T., & Scott, L. J. (2019). A Summary of the BURST [R]: Reading Efficacy Trial. Institute for Social Research.