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IES Grant

Title: The Scale Up of Promoting Adolescents Comprehension of Text
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Roberts, Greg Awardee: University of Texas, Austin
Program: Reading and Writing      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (7/1/2016-6/30/2021) Award Amount: $3,800,000
Goal: Effectiveness Award Number: R305A160026

Co-Principal Investigators: Sharon Vaughn; Elizabeth Swanson; Jeanne Wanzek (Vanderbilt University)

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to test the effectiveness of the Promoting Acceleration of Comprehension and Content through Text (PACT) intervention, which has been shown to have efficacy in improving middle school students' content-area reading comprehension. Researchers have found that a significant number of adolescents and young adults do not understand complex text, which in turn negatively impacts their ability to succeed in school, attend college, and be successful in the workplace. In response to this body of research, PACT was developed and tested for efficacy during the IES-funded Reading for Understanding Initiative (Understanding Malleable Cognitive Processes and Integrated Comprehension Interventions for Grades 7–12). The researchers found that PACT has a positive impact on students' reading comprehension outcomes. In the current study, researchers will examine the effectiveness of PACT implemented in social studies classrooms on 8th grade students' academic outcomes.

Project Activities: PACT is a fully-developed reading intervention that uses social studies content to engage students and to teach them to build coherent representations of the ideas in texts. Lessons include teaching background information on a topic, essential vocabulary related to the unit's topic, and team-based learning, which encourages students to have text-based discussions with peers and to justify and defend their ideas with evidence from the text. In this study, schools will be randomly assigned to implement either PACT or typical social studies instructional practices in their 8th grade social studies classrooms. Students will be assessed on reading and social studies outcomes before and after receiving the assigned intervention.

Products: The products of this project include evidence of the efficacy of the PACT intervention and peer reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in rural, urban, and suburban districts in eight states: California, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Texas.

Sample: Approximately 27,000 eighth grade students and their 180 middle school teachers will participate in this study.

Intervention: PACT is a fully-developed text and discourse-based reading intervention that focuses on teaching social studies content and using the content to improve reading comprehension. Lessons include essential vocabulary, background knowledge, and content instruction. Team-based learning activities group three-to-four students together to discuss the content and use the text to support and justify their arguments in discourse with their peers. The intervention materials include semi-scripted lesson plans for each day of instruction, supporting visuals and multimedia components such as videos, poster-sized game boards for knowledge application activities, and student spiral bound books related to text passages. Implementation is supported by a 2-day professional development session for teachers.

Research Design and Methods: This project team will implement a multi-site cluster randomized trial carried out in three cohorts. All public middle schools in all of the abovementioned states will be stratified according to school demographic factors (e.g., school-wide SES, locale, prevalence of English Learners, etc.), and then matched pairs of schools will be randomly assigned to the treatment or the control groups. Approximately 20 schools per year will participate for a total of 60 schools across the three cohorts. Researchers will administer measures to students before the implementation of the assigned intervention, after the intervention, and 8 weeks after the intervention has ended.

Control Condition: Students receive standard classroom practices in place at the school.

Key Measures: Student outcome measures include measures for social studies content learning, reading in social studies, and general reading comprehension. Specifically, measures include the researcher-designed Assessment of Social Studies Knowledge and Comprehension (ASK), which includes a Content Reading Comprehension subtest, and the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test—4th Edition.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use multilevel multi-group structural equation models, with students nested in classes and classes nested in schools, to analyze the main impact questions. The research team will include individual pretest scores and school-level mean pretest scores in the models.