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IES Grant

Title: A Regression Discontinuity Study of the Impact of ALFA Lab on 9th-Graders' Reading Achievement, Motivation, and Reading Frequency
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Mac Iver, Douglas Awardee: Johns Hopkins University
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (09/01/2018 - 08/31/2022) Award Amount: $3,254,543.56
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A180154

Co-Principal Investigators: Davis, Marcia; Mac Iver, Martha; Zhang, Xiaodong.

Purpose: Many students from neighborhoods of concentrated poverty enter high school with underdeveloped reading skills, and skill gaps can create widespread achievement and engagement problems for students in high school, as well as college and career. The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of ALFA (Accelerating Literacy for Adolescents) Lab, a small-group class that supports incoming high school students who are poor readers. The ALFA Lab was developed to enhance 9th grade studentsí reading skills as quickly as possible, and to equip students with the skills needed to meet the literacy requirements of their high school courses.

Project Activities: ALFA Lab is a fully-developed one-semester extra-help course that 9th graders with poor reading skills can take concurrently with their regular English class. In this project, researchers will use a regression discontinuity design to compare reading outcomes for students who were just above or just below a test cutoff score used to assign students to the ALFA Lab. Researchers will assess studentsí literacy outcomes at the beginning and the end of 9th grade.

Products: The products of this project include evidence of the efficacy of ALFA Lab for 9th grade students, peer-reviewed publications, and a publicly available dataset.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in high schools in urban communities in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio.

Sample: Approximately 1,200 first-time 9th grade students will participate in this study.

Intervention: ALFA Lab is a widely-used, fully-developed course for low-achieving 9th grade students. It is administered during an elective block, and no more than 20 students participate in each course. ALFA Lab is set up with stations, and each station reinforces comprehension, word knowledge, and fluency skills. ALFA Lab teachers are trained to lead station work and group students based on reading skill level. Materials for ALFA Lab include a teacher manual and curriculum unit materials such as lesson plans and activity sheets. Professional development includes summer training for teachers and assistance, monthly coaching, and weekly coaching.

Research Design and Methods: This project uses a regression discontinuity design. In each of two cohorts, students will take the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) in 8th grade, and those students with the lowest scores will be assigned to receive the ALFA Lab in 9th grade. Researchers will collect student reading outcome data at the end of the first semester of 9th grade.

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

Key Measures: Measures include the Scholastic Reading Inventory as the assignment measure for the regression discontinuity design. Researchers will use the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test as the primary outcome reading measure and the Adaptive Reading Motivation Measure to assess students' motivation for reading.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use a global parametric analysis to examine the efficacy of ALFA Lab. Researchers will examine moderators using the same parametric models with interaction terms included, and estimate mediation using structural equation modeling.