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IES Grant

Title: A Randomized Control Trial of a Tier 2 First Grade Mathematics Intervention
Center: NCSER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Clarke, Ben Awardee: University of Oregon
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2016-6/30/2020) Award Amount: $3,498,258
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A160046

Co-Principal Investigators: Christian Doabler and Hank Fien (University of Oregon) and Keith Smolkowski (Oregon Research Institute)

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to test the efficacy of a first-grade mathematics intervention called Fusion aimed at developing understanding of whole numbers for students at risk for mathematics learning disabilities. According to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 42% of fourth graders performed at or above the proficient level in mathematics. Students who perform poorly in mathematics early in school are at risk for continuing to struggle in mathematics throughout elementary school and beyond. There is preliminary evidence that developing in-depth understanding of the whole number system can support learning of future mathematics concepts for students at risk for mathematics learning disabilities. More research is needed on the efficacy of such an approach at a large scale, as well as whether differences in intervention intensity are related to improved student outcomes. This project seeks to fill this gap by studying the efficacy of the Fusion Tier 2 intervention for students at risk for mathematics learning disabilities in classrooms using a response to intervention model.

Project Activities: The researchers will test the impact of the Fusion intervention on measures of immediate and long-term mathematics achievement using a randomized controlled trial. They will also determine whether there are differential effects depending on the intensity of instruction (size of the small group instruction, with either a 2:1 or 5:1 student-teacher ratio) or student and instructor factors (initial skill level of student, teaching experience of instructional assistant, and year of instructional assistant's participation in the intervention).

Products: The products of this project include evidence of the efficacy of the Fusion intervention for improving first-grade students' mathematics achievement, and whether student and instructor factors or intensity of intervention influence this effect. Products also include peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will be conducted in elementary schools in Oregon and Massachusetts.

Sample: The project will involve 1,200 first-grade students identified as at risk for mathematics learning disabilities (10 students per classroom from 120 classrooms) and their classroom instructional assistants implementing the intervention.

Intervention: The Fusion intervention program is comprised of 60 lessons focused on whole number understanding, including operations, algebraic thinking, and number and operations in base 10. Students will receive either the intervention in a high-intensity setting with a group size of two, a low-intensity setting with a group size of five, or business-as-usual practices.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will use a randomized controlled trial design to compare the outcomes of students in three groups (high intensity, low intensity, and control group), blocking on classrooms to control for the influence of instructional assistant effects on student outcomes. Students will be randomly assigned within classrooms to one of the two intervention groups (high or low intensity) or the control group. The unit of analysis will be the instructional groups. The experimentally manipulated intensity of intervention allows for an exploratory examination of the impact of group size. In addition to examining the immediate impacts, each cohort will be assessed in the middle of second grade to determine long-term impacts of the intervention on mathematics achievement.

Control Group: Students in the control condition will receive business-as-usual instruction.

Key Measures: Student outcome measures will include a proximal measure of student performance using ProFusion, a measure developed by the research team, and distal measures of achievement that include the Test of Early Mathematics Ability (TEMA-3), Assessing Student Proficiency in Early Number Sense, the Stanford Achievement Test, and the Number Sets Test. Data will also be collected using four surveys to document instructional assistant demographic information, classroom characteristics, logs of instruction (e.g., number of lessons taught), and the Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching survey to measure pedagogical and content-related knowledge for teaching. Observations will be used to document implementation fidelity of the Fusion curriculum and factors related to intensity of the intervention using several research-developed protocols.

Data Analytic Strategy: A mixed methods analysis of covariance will be used to investigate the impact of the Fusion intervention on student outcomes. Multilevel models will be used to adjust for the nested design of the study. The models will be extended to test whether math achievement is dependent on student or instructor level factors (student initial skill level, experience of instructional assistants, and year of instructional assistant's participation in the intervention) or instructional intensity (group size).

Related IES Project: Foundations of Mathematical Understanding: Developing a Strategic Intervention on Whole Number Concepts (R324A090341)