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IES Grant

Title: Cognitive and Linguistic Mediators of Response to Intensive Interventions in Reading for English Learners At-Risk for Learning Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Miciak, Jeremy Awardee: University of Houston
Program: Early Career Development and Mentoring      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2017-6/30/2020) Award Amount: $391,047
Type: Training Award Number: R324B170012

Mentors: David Francis; Maria Carlo (University of Texas Health Sciences Center); Lee Branum-Martin (Georgia State University)

Purpose: The Principal Investigator (PI) will conduct a program of research for improving outcomes of English learners (EL) at risk for learning disabilities (LD) while participating in mentoring and training activities to develop expertise related to research with ELs, complex mediation analyses, regression discontinuity designs (RDD), and the application of mediation frameworks to RDDs. The PI intends to investigate the extent to which cognitive and linguistic factors (i.e., vocabulary/background knowledge, word reading, inferencing, and reading strategies) mediate the effects of an intensive intervention to improve the reading comprehension of third- and fourth-grade ELs at significant risk for LD. ELs are the fastest growing subgroup of the U.S. student population and are at greater risk for learning difficulties compared to their monolingual peers. Despite substantial advances in knowledge about ELs with LD, there are significant gaps in our understanding of the effects of intensive reading interventions and the cognitive and linguistic processes that may explain why these interventions are (or are not) effective for these students, especially during late elementary school when ELs are most often identified with LD. The proposed project will contribute to a better understanding of (1) the instructional needs of ELs at risk for LD, including measurable cognitive and linguistic characteristics that may predict improved outcomes in response to a reading intervention; (2) potential malleable intervention targets and their relative contribution as causal mechanisms for improved reading comprehension; and (3) statistical and methodological issues related to research with struggling ELs.

Research Plan: The proposed research will use RDD to investigate cognitive and linguistics factors that mediate the impact of an intensive, comprehensive reading comprehension intervention for ELs at risk for LDs. Approximately 350 third- and fourth-grade ELs in participating schools will be screened using a measure of reading fluency and comprehension. Students scoring below the 20th percentile of the sample on the measure will be assigned to the intervention group and all other students will comprise the comparison group. Students in the intervention group will receive an adapted version of the SRA Early Interventions in Reading, a set of comprehensive and explicit reading interventions developed for and validated with ELs in kindergarten through third grade that address phonological awareness, phonics and word study, vocabulary, fluency with text, and reading comprehension. The PI will adapt the intervention to match the grade and skills of the targeted sample, increase the focus on building critical academic language, and include structured opportunities for students to engage in discussion of text and content. The program will be implemented in small groups of about four students over a period of 16 weeks by intervention tutors. Data on implementation fidelity will be collected and coded from audiotaped intervention sessions. Before and immediately after the intervention, all students will be administered a battery of measures in English to assess reading comprehension as well as potential mediators of intervention response (i.e., vocabulary, word reading and fluency, inferencing, and reading strategies). Analyses will be conducted to determine the impact of the intervention on ELs and the cognitive and linguistic factors that mediate response to the intervention in reading comprehension. Because previous studies have not investigated mediation within the context of an experiment using RDD, the PI will work with mentors to extend a basic mediation framework to account for the complexities of the research design and data.

Career Plan: Through a career development plan, the PI intends to develop the following competencies: (1) research with ELs; (2) complex mediation analyses; (3) advanced analyses of experiments using RDD; and (4) the application of mediation frameworks to RDDs. To accomplish these goals, the PI will engage in monthly meetings with mentors, directed readings, coursework in mediation and multi-level modeling, and professional conferences in statistics and education research methods.