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IES Grant

Title: Preventing Dropout Among At-Risk Youth: A Study of Project Goal with English Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Vaughn, Sharon Awardee: University of Texas, Austin
Program: English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2019) Award Amount: $3,361,365
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A150058

Co-Principal Investigator: Roberts, Greg

Purpose: This project will test the efficacy of providing intensive reading instruction and/or a program to prevent dropout to high school ELLs who are at risk for not completing high school. In general, ELLs are less likely to graduate from high school than their monolingual peers. This may be related to lower skills in reading comprehension in English and higher rates of absenteeism and disciplinary problems than their monolingual peers. Students will participate in the intervention in 9th and 10th grade, and then be followed for two more years to evaluate whether participation in the programs increases graduation rates.

Project Activities: The research team will identify 8th grade students to begin participation in the study in 9th grade. Students will be randomly selected to participate in one of four conditions for two years: the Reading Intervention for Struggling Adolescents (RISA) program, the Check & Connect program, both programs, or neither program. Their academic progress will be monitored for the following two years. This study is a replication of a similar study conducted with monolingual students.

Products: The products of this project will be evidence of the efficacy of the Reading Intervention for Struggling Adolescents and Check & Connect programs as dropout prevention interventions for high school ELLs. The team will also produce peer-reviewed publications. Findings will be shared with a wide audience through a newsletter and social media.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in four high schools in a district in Texas with a high percentage of Spanish-speaking ELLs attending low-income schools.

Sample: Approximately 700, 9th grade ELLs who are struggling readers and/or have a history of behavioral and attendance problems in school will participate in this replication. The students are predominantly Hispanic.

Intervention: The Reading Intervention for Struggling Adolescents (RISA) program features instruction in small groups using systematic presentation of new reading skills, practice with word-level reading and reading fluency, and regular progress monitoring. Check & Connect is a fully developed and widely used model of sustained intervention to enhance and maintain students' engagement with school. Trained monitors work with students on a daily basis to provide individualized and timely support designed to increase motivation and engagement.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will identify students in the spring of their 8th grade year who will attend high schools participating in the efficacy study in 9th grade. Struggling readers who are currently designated as ELL or have been designated as ELL anytime within the past 5 years will be eligible to participate. Current and former ELs who score below a threshold on the Texas reading assessment (STARR) in the spring of 8th grade will be randomly assigned to one of four conditions: RISA only, Check & Connect only, both RISA and Check & Connect, or business as usual. Students will remain in the same condition for two years, and then followed for an additional two years to track their academic progress through high school.

The reading intervention, RISA, will be scheduled during an elective period for 50 minutes every day throughout each of the two school years. Check & Connect participants will meet with their monitor daily. Reading intervention teachers and Check & Connect monitors will be hired and trained by the research team. Student achievement in word reading, reading comprehension, and academic vocabulary will be assessed at pretest and three subsequent times during the first two years of the grant in all conditions. Researchers will document the quality and quantity of instruction for students in the both treatment and control classrooms.

The research team will also estimate the cost per student and school to provide the interventions, and perform cost effectiveness analysis to help district and school-level stakeholders make programming decisions.

Control Condition: Students in the control condition will receive the typical instruction and student support programs in their schools.

Key Measures: Researchers will ascertain fidelity of implementation for both interventions using the Implementation Validity Checklist, which consists of items that assess essential features of the intervention in terms of student behaviors, teacher/monitor behaviors, and classroom setting. Key student outcomes include reading, language, and engagement as measured by the Gates MacGinitie Reading Tests, Test of Word Reading Efficiency, Test of Silent Reading Efficiency and Comprehension, Woodcock Muņoz Language Survey, and Student Dropout Risk Indicators instrument.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use multilevel discrete-time survival analysis to establish the odds of dropping out of school and to estimate differences due to treatment. The research team will use multilevel growth modeling to estimate the effects of the intervention on reading outcomes with a nested-models comparison to evaluate statistical significance. Researchers will evaluate the effect of the combined treatment by comparing nested models. Analyses will examine learner characteristics (such as initial reading performance, primary language, demographic factors, and motivation) that may influence the strength of the relation between the interventions and student performance on reading and dropout measures.


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Maynard, B.R., Vaughn, M.G., Nelson, E.J., Salas–Wright, C.P., Heyne, D.A., and Kremer, K.P. (2017). Truancy In The United States: Examining Temporal Trends and Correlates ny Race, Age, and Gender. Children and Youth Services Review, 81, 188–196.