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IES Grant

Title: Investigating the Efficacy of a Web-Based Early Reading Intervention Professional Development Program for K-1 English Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Amendum, Steven Awardee: University of Delaware
Program: Policies, Practices, and Programs to Support English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (7/1/2016 – 6/30/2021) Award Amount: $3,299,115
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A160255

Co-Principal Investigators: Aiken, Heather; Babinski, Leslie; Bratsch-Hines, Henry

Purpose: Large numbers of children in United States schools struggle with reading, including a disproportionate number of English learners (ELs). The Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI) is an instructional intervention and professional development program for early reading, designed to help classroom teachers acquire key diagnostic strategies for use with young, struggling readers. The purpose of this study was to determine TRI's efficacy for young ELs, specifically. Previous efficacy studies (R305A040056, R305A100654) found that teachers were able to adapt their teaching practices to implement TRI and that TRI showed positive effects on student reading gains for struggling and non-struggling readers. This project tested whether, however, that as new language learners, ELs may face different reading challenges and require different instructional supports as a result. Results from this project showed that there was not a significant effect of the TRI for ELs on a broad measure of literacy achievement nor on narrow targeted skills. Additionally, the researchers detected no mediation or moderation effects. These results suggest the need to develop interventions aligned to the needs of ELs and to exercise caution in wholesale use of interventions designed for monolingual English speakers with ELs.

Project Activities: The researchers used a mixed-methods multi-site randomized controlled trial (RCT) in which classroom teachers were randomly assigned to participate in TRI and eligible students were randomly assigned to receive TRI instruction first, second, or third within treatment classroom. The researchers implemented a pilot instructional match measure to determine its promise as a teacher-level measure, and they conducted a cost analysis to determine costs associated with TRI implementation. In years 1 through 4, the research team implemented TRI in 16 schools and collected data about both teacher and student performance, as well as fidelity of TRI implementation. In years 5 through 6, the researchers conducted analyses and explored whether the TRI led to better teacher practices and outcomes or better reading gains for ELs compared to gains for ELs whose teachers did not participate in TRI.

Key Outcomes: The main findings of this study will be shared once available in a publicly available peer-reviewed publication.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study took place at 16 elementary schools across urban, suburban, and rural settings in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

Sample: Participants were kindergarten and first-grade classroom teachers (n = 149; 79 treatment, 70 control) and their students who were English learners (n = 451; 195 treatment, 256 control). Schools were selected if (1) they had a population in which at least 10 percent of students were ELs, (2) they had kindergarten and grade 1 classrooms with at least 3 EL students each, and (3) administrators and a majority of kindergarten and first teachers were interested in participation. There were 194 ELs in kindergarten, 257 ELs in first grade, and 48.1 percent of students were female. Reported race/ethnicities were 6.4 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 13.4 percent Black or African American, 67.1 percent White, and 2.0 percent reported race/ethnicity as other. Families reported the highest level of mother's education as 24.2 percent 8th grade or less, 21.1 percent as some high school, 19.5 percent as high school diploma or GED, 8.0 percent as some college, 4.9 percent as bachelor's degree, and 6.4 percent as graduate school. Teacher participants (85 percent female) included 58 kindergarten and 85 grade 1 teachers. Teachers' self-reported races/ethnicities reports were 1.34% Asian or Pacific Islander, 13.42% Black or African American, 67.11% white, and 2.01% reported race/ethnicity as other. In addition, 5.37% of teachers identified as Hispanic. Twenty-four teachers (16.11%) did not report race/ethnicity. The majority of teachers (52 percent) were aged 20 to 39, 72 percent possessed elementary education certification, and 32.2 percent had a master's degree. Teachers had an average of 12.02 years of teaching experience. (Precents may not add to 100 percent due to missing data).

Intervention: The TRI used technology to connect classroom teachers with certified TRI literacy coaches for weekly collaboration and consultation during TRI instruction. In this model, the TRI Coach (via an iPad with webcam) supported the classroom teacher in delivering diagnostically driven reading instruction to students in one-on-one sessions. These sessions took place in the classroom while other students engaged in their own independent or small group reading activities. The content of TRI instruction focused on word- and text-level reading exercises tailored to the student's current most pressing need, as identified by the TRI Coach and classroom teacher. In addition to one-on-one sessions, a collaborative professional learning team was established within each school that included the kindergarten and first-grade teachers and the TRI Coach. This team met periodically to discuss individual children and to receive periodic web-based professional development. All professional development activities and intervention components were designed to support teachers' effective instruction to support ELs' English reading development.

Research Design and Methods: In the first 4 years of this study, the researchers implemented TRI at a total of 16 schools in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and collected data about both teacher and student performance. Within each school, the researchers randomly assigned teachers to control or treatment conditions and students to receive the TRI intervention first, second, or third. Teachers in the TRI intervention condition participated in an initial training institute to learn about TRI and interacted with TRI literacy coaches during one-on-one intervention sessions on a weekly basis throughout the school year. Treatment teachers also participated together in periodic meetings to discuss their progress and receive professional development. In years 5 through 6, researchers focused on conducting analyses to compare the teacher and student outcomes from the treatment and control groups across all schools. They focused on (1) whether TRI led to better teacher practices and outcomes, as measured by surveys, questionnaires, and instructional observations and (2) whether TRI led to better reading gains for ELs, as measured by two reading assessments (primary: MAP Growth Reading K-2; exploratory: three subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson-IV) compared to gains for ELs whose teachers did not participate in TRI.

Control Condition: Teachers in the control condition provided a business-as-usual control setting. This allowed for estimation of the added value of TRI over and above current instructional practice for ELs. Control group teachers received TRI training after the completion of data collection.

Key Measures: Students' reading and literacy was measured using standardized tests: the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Growth Reading K–2, and three subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson IV, Letter-Word Identification, Word Attack, and Passage Comprehension. The researchers used survey questions from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten (ECLS-K) to measure teacher literacy practices and the Piasta and Connor Teacher Knowledge Survey (TKS) to measure teachers' foundational knowledge of reading. A pilot researcher-designed vignette-based measure was used for instructional match. In addition, the research team surveyed control teachers about their participation in professional development activities, changes in teaching practices, and acquisition of knowledge and skills.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers used ordinary least squares (OLS) regression to assess the impacts of TRI on teachers' content knowledge and a multivariate framework to examine the instructional match measure using a linear HLM model with items nested in each individual and crossed within each timepoint items with initial promise and proof of concept to detect differences between treatment and control. They used hierarchical linear models to estimate the impact of intervention on the reading performance of ELs. Also, to explore whether impacts of TRI are mediated by changes in teacher knowledge, the researchers used multilevel structural equation modeling (MSEM) to explore mediated causal pathways.

Cost Analysis: Information about TRI costs was collected throughout the study years and the cost analysis was driven by the ingredients method which carefully considered the resources that the TRI program used in its implementation.  Using the ingredients method, the researchers determined the total costs of implementing the TRI for the project to be $668,246. The cost per student, on average, was approximately $2,728 ranging from a low of $2,638 in NC to a high of $3,983 in PA.

Related IES Projects: National Research Center on Rural Education Support (R305A040056), The Targeted Reading Intervention: A Web-Based Professional Development Program Targeting K–1 Classroom Teachers and Their Struggling Readers (R305A100654), An Effectiveness Replication of Targeted Reading Instruction: Investigating Long-Term Student and Teacher Impacts (R305R210007)

Products and Publications

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

Publicly available data: forthcoming; for information contact Steve Amendum at

Project website:

Additional online resources and information:

Select Publications:

Aiken, H. H., Bratsch-Hines, M., & Amendum, S. J., & Vernon-Feagans, L. (2021). Targeted Reading Instruction: Four guiding principles. The Reading Teacher, 74(5), 505–515.

Amendum, S. J., Aiken, H. H., Bratsch-Hines, M., & Babinski, L. M. (2023). Situated professional learning through Targeted Reading Instruction. In D. A. Robertson, L. A. Hall, & C. H. Brock (Eds.), Innovations in Literacy Professional Learning: Strengthening Equity, Access, and Sustainability (pp. 101–119). Guilford Publications.

Jolly, A. C., Beach, K. D., Aiken, H. H., & Amendum, S. J. (2023). The Development and Pilot of an Observation Tool to Examine Behaviors of Instructional Coaches. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 1–26.

Karpyn A. & Amendum, S. J. (2021). Cost Evaluation: Targeted Reading Intervention. Newark, DE: Center for Research in Education and Social Policy.