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IES Contract

Title: Tutoring With The Lightning Squad: Integrating Technology, Peers, and Home for Reading Success
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Cerf, Christopher Awardee: Sirius Thinking, Ltd.
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (5/7/2015 - 5/6/2017) Award Amount: $898,387
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: EDIES15C0026

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Purpose: This project team will develop and test a multimedia platform, The Lightning Squad, designed to guide teachers in providing tutoring sessions to small groups of struggling readers. Grade 3 students who read below grade level are more likely to drop out of high school than peers who read at grade level. Because of the importance of early reading, it is critical for grade schools to offer strong interventions along with additional support for struggling students. Small group tutoring sessions by teachers and certified paraprofessionals is one technique that has been successful at supporting reading outcomes.

Project Activities: During Phase I (completed in 2014), the team developed a prototype platform consisting of the user interface, a teacher dashboard, and activities and games designed to promote critical reading skills such as word-level decoding, letter-sound correspondence, and comprehending decodable stories. At the end of Phase I, pilot research with two tutors and 16 struggling readers in grades 1 to 3 demonstrated that the prototype operated as intended, that teachers were able to integrate the prototype within standard practice, and that students found the activities engaging. During Phase II, the team will fully develop the technological infrastructure, teacher resources, and create and integrate content within the activities and games. Researchers will carry out a pilot test to examine the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and promise of the platform to facilitate tutoring sessions and improve reading. Approximately four hundred students in grades 1 to 3 that are having difficulty in reading will receive supplemental tutoring using The Lightning Squad. Half of the students will be randomly assigned to the intervention in the fall of 2016 and the other half will proceed with business as usual. Analyses will compare pre-and-post reading scores between the two groups over this time span.

Product: This team will develop The Lightning Squad, a multimedia platform designed to facilitate the tutoring of struggling readers in grades 1 to 3. The platform will be implemented through short in- or after-school sessions, where pairs of students will read words and stories presented by the computer with a teacher providing targeted support as needed. The key components of the technology will include: digital books, multimedia activities, such as games, puzzles, and videos, and a teacher dashboard to track student progress and provide instructional resources. Much of the content in The Lightning Squad will be adapted from the popular television programs Sesame Street and The Electric Company. All activities will capture student performance data, which will be used to continually adjust the pace and level of the content presented. For additional practice, students will have also access to activities at home. The Lightning Squad will be designed for laptops, tablets, and smartphones.