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IES Contract

Title: Commercializing the Effective K-3 Assessment to Instruction (A2i) Intervention to Reduce Cost and to Scale Access to the Benefit of More Students
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Connor, Jay Awardee: Learning Ovations
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2.5 years Award Amount: $1,050,000
Type: Fast Track Award Number: EDIES14C0026


Phase I Amount: $150,000
Phase I Period: 6 months
Phase II Amount: $900,000
Phase II Period: 2 years

Purpose: Students who fail to achieve proficient levels of literacy are at increased risk for grade retention, referral to special education, and dropping out of high school. The kindergarten through 3rd grade years are particularly important for students to gain a strong foundation in reading as those who continue to struggle with reading after 3rd grade are significantly less likely to achieve reading proficiency. The Assessment-to-instruction, or A2i, is an existing technology tool that supports individualized literacy instruction by interpreting reading assessment results to plan and implement individualized instruction. Developed and tested with prior IES funding, researchers find that K-3rd grade children in A2i classrooms showed significantly greater gains compared to control classrooms. However, feedback from practitioners demonstrates that A2i implementation often requires substantial amounts of researcher support and local district adaptation, and that the cost of A2i is not sustainable for most school district budgets. This project developed a technology platform to enable a high-capacity, cost-efficient, scalable version of A2i so that it can be easily used by teachers and educational leaders in a wide variety of settings.

Project Activities: During this project, the team redesigned the current version of A2i using Software-as-a-Service model deployment, allowing for frequent updates and optimizations while reducing the cost of entry and maintenance. Redevelopment focused on optimizing the data modeling logic and database structure to provide a more logical relationship between data objects. Using modern development standards, concepts such as schools, districts, grades, classrooms, and students can now be implemented as discrete data objects, which are interrelated through the database structure. The researchers also created professional development modules to support efficient and effective implementation. These components were then integrated within the overall system. Iterative refinements were conducted at major production milestones until the product was fully functional.

After development was completed, the researchers tested the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the product to improve student outcomes in 20 kindergarten to grade 3 classrooms. Teachers implemented the A2i program over the school year and student progress was measured using state Common Core reading assessments. The research team found that educators reported that the platform was feasible to implement in classroom settings and that the reading performance of students in all classes increased from the pre- to the post- test.  In addition, the researchers provided the product to and surveyed 149 educators who had participated in past efficacy trials using the previous version of the A2i. Findings indicated that 95% of educators rated the site's user friendliness as above average or excellent and 77% reported that the new technology would simplify or dramatically reduce their lesson planning time.

Product: This project team developed a new version of A2i, a cloud-based technology tool to support individualized (or differentiated or personalized) instruction to result in a district and school-wide platform for improving all K-3rd grade students' literacy achievement. The final product preserves the essential functionality of A2i that is associated with stronger student outcomes, while modernizing and optimizing the underlying structure. Key components include assessment and data-based decision tools for teachers including algorithm-based recommended reading instruction; planning and organizing literacy instruction tools; planning tools to help teachers deliver the intervention; and professional development tools.

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