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IES Grant

Title: An Examination of Response to Intervention in the Early Writing Skills of At-Risk Preschoolers
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Hooper, Stephen Awardee: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2017 - 06/30/2021) Award Amount: $3,292,904
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A170529

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of the Phonological Awareness + Letter Knowledge (PA+LK) intervention on writing skills in preschool children at risk for early learning problems. Research shows that preschool children who have difficulty with literacy skills are more likely to enter elementary school with literacy problems, and are unlikely to catch up with their peers. Thus, it is important to establish strong foundational literacy skills before students enter kindergarten. This study will examine the efficacy of the PA+LK intervention to help preschool children who have been identified as at-risk for literacy problems to learn to write.

Project Activities: PA+LK is a fully-developed intervention that teaches preschool children a variety of literacy skills. In this project, researchers will randomly assign at-risk preschool children to either receive PA+LK or regular classroom practice. Students who are not at-risk for literacy problems will receive regular classroom practice. Students will receive their assigned intervention for two years. Students will be assessed before beginning their assigned intervention, after the intervention is complete, and when they are in kindergarten.

Products: The products of this project include evidence of the efficacy of PA+LK for preschool children, and peer reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in North Carolina.

Sample: Approximately 300 preschool students will participate in this study.

Intervention: PA+LK is a fully-developed set of evidence-based procedures aimed at facilitating the development of phonological awareness, print awareness, and early reading and writing abilities. The intervention includes rhyming activities, print activities like matching words, and isolating sounds. PA+LK utilizes both oral and print activities. PA+LK includes 42 lessons over 14 weeks.

Research Design and Methods: This project will use a multi-cohort randomized control trial design. Three-year-old children will be screened on the Test of Early Written Language — 2 and the Get Ready to Read! Revised Screening Tool. Students who score below the 25th percentile on at least one of these screeners will be deemed at-risk and will be randomly assigned to either receive PA+LK or standard classroom practice. A subsample of about 100 students who are not at-risk for early literacy problems will be randomly selected to be part of a comparison group for the at-risk students. Thus, each cohort will include three groups: (1) a treatment group of at-risk students who receive PA+LK; (2) a control group of at-risk children who receive business-as-usual; and (3) a comparison group of children not at risk who receive business-as-usual. Children will receive their assigned intervention for two consecutive years. All students will be assessed pre-intervention, post-intervention, and in kindergarten.

Control Condition: In the control condition, students receive the standard classroom practices in place at the school.

Key Measures: The research team will use the Test of Early Written Language–2 and the Get Ready to Read! Revised Screening Tool to screen students for early literacy problems. Researchers will also use these assessments as outcome measures, along with the Preschool Writing Scale. Measures of cognitive mediator measures will include: tasks in which students copy basic shapes as a measure of fine-motor functions; the Preschool Language Scale–5 and the Test of Preschool Early Literacy to assess language; and a standardized battery of executive functions. The Behavior Assessment Scale for Children–3 Parent Report and Teacher Report, and the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale will be used to assess social-behavior moderators.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use Latent Growth Curve modeling to examine the efficacy of the PA+LK intervention on the development of children's writing skills, and to investigate whether any gains are sustained into kindergarten. The research team will also add mediators to the Latent Growth Curve model.


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

Select Publications

Book chapters

Costa, L. C., Greene, J. A., & Hooper, S. R. (2020). The relations among the development of written language and executive functions for children in elementary school. In R. J. Dippre & T. Phillips (Eds.) Approaches to Lifespan Writing Research: Generating an Actionable Coherence.Collins, Colorado: The WAC Clearinghouse.

Hooper S.R., Costa L.C., Green, M. B., Catlett, S. R., Barker, A., Fernandez, E., Valdes, C. & Faldowski, R. (2021). Executive functions and writing skills in children and adolescents: developmental associations and disassociations. In T. Olive & T. Limpo (Eds.) Executive Function and Writing. New York: Oxford University Press.

Journal articles

Costa, L. C., Green, M. B., Sideris, J. & Hooper, S. R. (2018). First-grade cognitive predictors of writing disabilities in second, third, and fourth grade elementary school students. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 51(4), 351–362. Full text

Costa, L.C., Spencer, S.V., & Hooper, S.R. (2022) Emergent neuroimaging findings for written expression in children: A scoping review. Brain Sciences, 12(406), 1–17.

Hooper S.R., Costa L.C., Green, M. B., Catlett, S. R., Barker, A., Fernandez, E., & Faldowski, R. (2020). The relationship of teacher ratings of executive functions to emergent literacy in Head Start. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 33, 963–989. Full text