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IES Grant

Title: Breakthrough to Literacy in the Chicago Public Schools: A Large Scale Evaluation of the Effectiveness of a Reading Comprehension Intervention
Center: NCER Year: 2004
Principal Investigator: Hurtig, Richard Awardee: University of Iowa
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years Award Amount: $5,984,980
Type: Scale-Up Evaluations Award Number: R305G040145

The University of Iowa has teamed with Abt Associates Inc. and the Chicago Public Schools to design a large-scale implementation and random assignment evaluation of a widely used early language and literacy curriculum, Breakthrough to Literacy (BTL), that has already shown promise in several smaller-scale quasi-experimental effectiveness studies.

The University of Iowa is proposing to implement BTL in both prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms in a large sample of Chicago Public Schools under Goal Four (4) Large-Scale Evaluations of the Effectiveness of Reading Intervention.

Abt Associates has designed and will conduct an independent evaluation of the implementation and impacts of BTL when it is taken to scale. The evaluation will use a randomized cluster design in which schools will be randomly assigned either to BTL or to a control group, with two preschool and two kindergarten classrooms in each school. The evaluation will follow two cohorts of children beginning preschool. For schools assigned to BTL, the curriculum will be implemented in both preschool and kindergarten. Both cohorts of children will be followed through first grade; the earlier of the two cohorts will be followed into second grade. The impacts of BTL on children will be assessed based on standardized test of early language and reading skills. In both control and BTL classrooms, teacher practices and classroom environments will be assessed via state-of-the art observations of the literacy support and interactions in the classrooms. In addition, the fidelity of implementation of BTL will be studied in BTL schools only, using measures developed by BTL but administered by Abt Associates. The team brings together expertise in reading and reading instruction, language and cognition.

The third partner is the Chicago Public Schools. Testing BTL will provide an important test of taking it to scale in a large, urban district with a high proportion of at-risk children. If evidence from several large quasi-experimental district studies can be corroborated in a district such as Chicago, and if the implementation of BTL has a significant impact on the language and literacy skills that children need to become competent, successful readers (skills and comprehension) in a sample of primarily low-income children, the policy significance of the study will be immense. In addition, data on factors that impact the fidelity of implementation will be collected. The study will also have a strong emphasis on the impacts of BTL on children's language and pre-literacy skills. Not only will short-term impacts (e.g., prekindergarten and kindergarten) be measured, but children will also be assessed into early elementary school for longer-term impacts.


Book chapter

Unlu, F., Bozzi, L., Layzer, C., Smith, A., Price, C., and Hurtig, R. (2016). Linking Implementation Fidelity to Impacts in an RCT. In G. Roberts, S. Vaughn, S.N. Beretvas, and V. Wong (Eds.), Treatment Fidelity in Studies of Educational Intervention (pp. 100–129). New York, NY: Taylor and Francis.