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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: Tutoring with the Lightning Squad - YouTube

Purpose: In this project, the team developed and tested the promise of a multimedia platform, The Lightning Squad, 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 elementary schools to offer strong interventions along with additional supports for struggling students. Small group tutoring sessions led by teachers and certified paraprofessionals are one technique that has been successful at improving 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 fully developed the technological infrastructure, teacher resources, and created and integrated content within the activities and games. After development was complete, a pilot study occurred in six schools with sixteen tutors who delivered the program as a supplement to regular classroom reading instruction. Results indicated that tutors and students were able to use the product, that it was engaging, and that it was able to be implemented as a supplemental activity. To examine the promise of the program to lead to the intended outcomes, 150 students in grades 1 to 3 who were identified as having difficulty in reading participated in the study. 63 were assigned to participate in 25 or more supplemental tutoring sessions using The Lightning Squad and 87 were assigned to a business-as-usual control condition. In a pre- to post- test, students who participated in the tutoring program showed a significant increase compared to the control group on reading achievement as measured by the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement, Letter Word Identification, Word Attack, and Passage Comprehension subtests . (Ross, Laurenzano, Madden, 2017).

Product: This project team developed The Lightning Squad, a multimedia platform designed to facilitate the tutoring of struggling readers in grades 1 to 3. The platform can be implemented through short in- or after-school sessions, where pairs of students read words and stories presented by the computer with a teacher providing targeted support as needed. The key components of the technology include digital books, multimedia activities, such as games, puzzles, and videos, and a teacher dashboard to track student progress and provide instructional resources. The tutoring program builds on the Success for All whole school reading program through the incorporation of video segments and gaming content.

Much of the content in The Lightning Squad is adapted from the popular television programs Sesame Street and The Electric Company. All activities capture student performance data, which are used to continually adjust the pace and level of the content presented. For additional practice, students have also access to activities at home. The Lightning Squad is available designed for laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Related Project:  Technology-enhanced Tutoring: Linking School and Home to Help Struggling Readers (EDIES14C0046)

Products and Publications

Ross, S.M., Laurenzano, M, Madden, N. (2017). An Evaluation of the Lightning Squad Computer-Assisted Small Group Tutoring Program on the Reading Achievement of Disadvantaged Students in Grades 1-3. Technical Report. Center for Research and Reform in Education.