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IES Grant

Title: Evaluation of Structured Methods in Language Education (SMiLE): A Program Combining Literacy and Language Development for K–5 Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities in NYC's District 75
Center: NCSER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Parker, Caroline Awardee: Education Development Center, Inc.
Program: Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Special Education Interventions      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/20176/30/2019) Award Amount: $250,000
Award Number: R324L170003
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Raizel Blau-Reider (New York City Department of Education); Lauren Katzman (Education Development Center, Inc.)

Partner Institution(s): Education Development Center, Inc. and the New York City Department of Education District 75 Citywide Programs

Purpose: The goal of this study is to examine the impact of a multi-sensory reading program, Structured Methods in Language Education (SMiLE), on students with significant cognitive disabilities (SCD) who are not yet readers or are beginning readers. SMiLE is designed to provide students with SCD who struggle when beginning to read with the skills they need to access text and become more independent readers. District 75 within the New York City Department of Education is responsible for educating students with the most significant needs; the majority of students with SCD in Grades K–5 (over 96% or 6,210) in this district have been identified as non-readers or beginning readers based on an annual progress monitoring tool. District 75 has been implementing SMiLE with these students since 2008 and previous studies have provided evidence of the promise of the program in improving reading skills. This study is designed to provide a rigorous evaluation of the effect of SMiLE on the reading skills of students with SCD in District 75.

Project Activities: The partnership researchers will collaborate in conducting a cluster randomized controlled trial in which 200 special education professionals who have not previously received SMiLE training will be randomly assigned to receive SMiLE training or to continue business-as-usual reading instruction. Researchers will assess the impact of SMiLE on 400 students with SCD in kindergarten through fifth grade who have been identified as non-readers or beginning readers using the Student Annual Needs Determination Inventory (SANDI), an assessment developed by the Riverside County Office of Education to monitor academic progress (including in reading) as well as progress in other behavioral, functional, and academic skills for all students in the district with disabilities who take the state alternate assessment.

Products: The results of the study will be disseminated through an oral briefing to District 75 special education staff; practitioner-focused briefs, articles and webinars; and conference presentations and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in general education or special education classes serving approximately 6 to 12 students with disabilities in Grades K–5 in New York City District 75. This is a district that is responsible for educating over 23,000 students with the most significant disabilities in the city.

Sample: This study will include approximately 200 special education professionals (i.e., special education teachers, speech and language therapists, and paraprofessionals) who have not previously received SMiLE training and who work with students with SCD in Grades K–5. A total of 400 students will be included in the study.

Intervention: SMiLE is a highly structured, multisensory reading program combining verbal and visual behavior with reading instruction. This program was initially developed for students who are deaf and was adapted to meet the needs of students with significant cognitive disabilities demonstrating difficulties in learning to read. The intervention, implemented by special education professionals, begins with a focus on attention and language imitation tasks and progresses to using simple sentences and informational texts. Special education professionals implementing the program receive training to deliver the intervention in three sessions and provide 10–15 minutes of daily intensive, targeted, and individualized instruction to two students over the school year while receiving classroom support and coaching as well as access to on-demand videos covering implementation and professional development.

Research Design and Methods: This study will evaluate whether SMiLE improves the reading skills of students with SCD using a cluster randomized controlled trial design. Special education professionals will be recruited from among those who teach Grade K–5 students with SCD, sign up for literacy professional development, and have not yet been trained in SMiLE. Interested personnel will then be stratified by professional role (i.e., special education teachers, speech and language therapists, and paraprofessionals) to ensure there are enough participants from each group of professionals assigned to the treatment and control groups. These personnel will then be randomly assigned to either the SMiLE or a business-as-usual control condition. Two students will be randomly selected from among all eligible students served by each participating special education professional for a total sample of 400 students.

Control Condition: Personnel assigned to the control group will engage in typical reading instruction delivered to students with SCD in District 75, which includes either packaged programs or teacher-developed literacy materials.

Key Measures: The screening measure, the Student Annual Needs Determination Inventory (SANDI), was developed by the Riverside County Office of Education for use in the fall and spring to monitor growth in skills, including reading, among students with disabilities who take New York State's Alternate Assessment (NYSAA). The SANDI is aligned to the NYSAA and assesses the academic, behavioral, vocational, and independent living skill needs of students with disabilities. Scores from three of the sub-tests of the SANDI for reading, writing, and communication will also serve as student outcome measures. In addition to the SANDI, treatment students complete an assessment, designed for the SMiLE program to determine which skills should be targeted. These students complete the same assessment at the end of the program to determine their progress on these skills. District 75 will provide demographic data for participants and students to include as moderators in proposed analyses. Special education professionals will complete personnel logs documenting the implementation of the SMiLE program (treatment) and the business-as-usual literacy instruction (control) and these data will be used to assess implementation of literacy instruction for the entire sample as well as the implementation of SMiLE for those program participants.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use hierarchical linear modeling to evaluate the impact of SMiLE on student outcomes. The multilevel models will account for the nesting of the students within the classes of the special education professionals. The effects of classroom setting will be explored and demographic moderators will be assessed at the student and special education professional levels. Fidelity of implementation data will be assessed in the impact models as well as descriptively for treatment-only fidelity.


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