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IES Grant

Title: Improving Content-Area Literacy Instruction in Middle Schools (Project CALI)
Center: NCSER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Wexler, Jade Awardee: University of Maryland, College Park
Program: Educators and School-Based Service Providers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2018) Award Amount: $1,500,000
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A150181

Purpose: The research team proposed to develop a middle school co-teaching program that to improve collaboration between general (content-area) and special education teachers and, ultimately, reading skills and content-area knowledge of students with disabilities. The level of literacy necessary for post-secondary education and employment has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. However, many students with disabilities are not receiving sufficient literacy instruction in content-area classes to have any measurable impact on reading achievement. Co-teaching models hold great potential for promoting inclusion and building content-area knowledge and basic reading skills of students with disabilities. These models include both content area teachers and special education teachers providing instruction to students with disabilities in the general classroom. Co-teaching models, however, may often lead to confusion about roles and responsibilities, leading to minimal support for students with disabilities. This project planned to develop a systematic co-teaching model for middle school to address these concerns.

Project Activities: This project team aimed to use an iterative process to guide the creation of the professional development program and gather data to evaluate its usability, feasibility, and promise. In years 1 and 2, the team proposed to develop the program iteratively through a series of five cycles. In year 3, they proposed to evaluate the promise of the program using random assignment to determine the promise of the program for improving student literacy skills, content-area knowledge, and engagement and teacher knowledge and change in classroom practices.

Structured Abstract


Setting: The research will be conducted in urban and suburban middle schools in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and Connecticut.

Sample: Approximately 22 co-teaching pairs of special education teachers and content area teachers and 264 of their eighth grade students will participate in this research. Students will include adolescents with and at risk for reading disability and their peers without disabilities with average to above average reading ability.

Intervention: The project will result in a professional development program designed to enhance collaboration between content-area and special education teachers and integrate content-area literacy strategies into co-taught content area classes. The program will include three primary components: 1) an Instructional Framework aimed at increasing literacy instruction and intervention provided within content area classes, 2) a Planning Process aimed at clarifying the role of the special education teacher as a literacy specialist and providing a clear structure for co-planning, and 3) Technical Assistance that will support teachers with integrating the Framework and Planning Process into practice. The program will emphasize the integration of data-based literacy support for students who are struggling with reading and comprehending expository text across content areas. In addition to the three primary components, teachers will receive professional development designed to improve their general co-planning and co-teaching skills.

Research Design and Methods: In years 1 and 2, the professional development program will be created and revised through five cycles of iterative development, with data gathered on its usability and feasibility. During the first cycle, the team will develop training modules related to improving co-planning and co-teaching skills and fidelity checklists. The second cycle will involve observing participants' current co-teaching methods and implementing the materials developed in the first cycle. During the third cycle, each of the three primary intervention components will be implemented over 5-week sessions. Revised versions of the three components will be implemented during the fourth cycle over a 23-week period. During the fifth cycle, all phases of the program will be integrated with varying amounts of support from the researchers to determine the appropriate level of support necessary for intervention fidelity. In year 3, the promise of the program will be evaluated. Twelve pairs of co-teaching classes (six pairs at each site) will be randomly assigned to implement the program or practice as usual.

Control Condition: Teachers in the control condition will participate in the typical professional development provided by their school district.

Key Measures: Student academic outcomes will be evaluated using multiple reading assessments, including the Vocabulary and Passage Comprehension subtests of the Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GRADE), the Test of Sentence Reading Efficiency and Comprehension (TOSREC), and the Oral Reading Fluency and Maze AIMSweb reading assessments. The team will also administer a content-area assessment, a measure of student engagement, and student focus groups and surveys. Intermediate teacher outcomes will be assessed using teacher evaluations, teacher and project staff logs, narrative notes from feedback sessions, and teacher surveys. Fidelity of implementation will also be evaluated during observations of instruction and planning meetings.

Data Analytic Strategy: During the development of the program, data will be sorted, coded, triangulated, and analyzed by calculating descriptive statistics and running exploratory analyses (using multiple regression and correlation analyses) to determine where changes to intervention components should be made. Multilevel modeling will be used to evaluate the promise of the professional development program for improving teacher outcomes and student reading skills and content area knowledge.


ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.