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IES Grant

Title: Evaluating the Efficacy of Read Well Kindergarten
Center: NCER Year: 2005
Principal Investigator: Gunn, Barbara Awardee: Oregon Research Institute
Program: Field Initiated Evaluations of Education Innovations      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (6/1/2005-5/31/2009) Award Amount: $1,403,531
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305F050080

Structured Abstract

Purpose: At the beginning of kindergarten, there are enormous disparities in language and early literacy skills, with children from low-income families and non-English speaking homes lagging significantly behind their more advantaged peers. Kindergarten may be a crucial year for helping to ensure disadvantaged students' later academic success. Research suggests that learning to read in the first grade is the best predictor of a child's ultimate success in school, but first-grade reading achievement depends on how much children know about reading before they start the grade. The purpose of this study is to determine if Read Well Kindergarten, a beginning reading program that uses small group mastery-based reading instruction, enhances language and literacy skills in 30 schools through the end of first grade. The program is based on principles of scientifically based reading instruction, an approach schools are seeking to find and for which they need solid evidence of effectiveness before training staff.

Setting: The evaluation is being conducted in 30 elementary schools.

Population (s): The participants are kindergarten students and their teachers.

Intervention: Read Well Kindergarten is a 26-week, daily, scripted program for small-group reading instruction focused on oral language and vocabulary development, phonemic awareness, alphabetic understanding, and decoding. Teachers receive training on the curriculum. Previous research on Read Well Kindergarten has shown evidence of the promise of this program to benefit young children.

Research Design and Methods: The study is a randomized controlled trial in which thirty elementary schools are randomly assigned to the Read Well Kindergarten condition or a wait-list control. Three cohorts of students in each school will be in the study. From the 30 schools, the expected sample size is a total of 1,350 students, or 45 children (15 per year) from each of the 30 schools.

Observations for fidelity of implementation in treatment schools and classrooms and observations of control schools and classrooms will be conducted three times during the kindergarten year.

Control Condition: The wait-list control schools will continue their standard literacy instruction and will be eligible to receive the program free of charge at the end of year 2 or 3 of the study.

Key Measures: The students will be pre-tested at the start of the kindergarten, post-tested at the end of kindergarten, and will receive follow-up assessments at the beginning and end of first grade. At the beginning and end of the kindergarten year, assessments of oral receptive vocabulary, alphabetic understanding, and three different indicators for aspects of phonemic awareness will be administered. At the end of kindergarten and beginning and end of first grade, assessments of four types of decoding, oral reading fluency and accuracy, and comprehension will be given.

Data Analytic Strategy: The analysis strategy includes multi-level analyses (students nested within schools) of treatment effects of year-one outcomes (after controlling for pre-test) and multi-wave longitudinal achievement growth. The analysis will address whether impact of the program is mediated by fidelity of implementation and attendance, and whether the impact of the program was moderated by English language ability and special education status.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Gunn, B., Smolkowski, K., and Vadasy, P. (2011). Evaluating the Effectiveness of "Read Well Kindergarten". Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 4(1): 53–86.

Smolkowski, K., and Gunn, B. (2012). Reliability and Validity of the Classroom Observations of Student–Teacher Interactions (COSTI) for Kindergarten Reading Instruction. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(2): 316–328.