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IES Grant

Title: SERP-DCPS Partnership to Promote Early Literacy Success
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Donovan, Suzanne Awardee: Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) Institute
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (07/01/19 – 06/30/21) Award Amount: $400,000
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H190057

Co-Principal Investigator: Colgan, Corinne

Partner Institutions: The Strategic Education Research Partnership Institute (SERP), District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)

Purpose: DCPS has worked to increase student reading proficiency in the early elementary grades but has found it difficult to help the lowest performing students in grade 1 and 2 reach proficiency by grade 3. The project carried out two studies seeking to identify the malleable factors linked to disparities in K–3 student reading success. Study 1 integrated multiple DCPS datasets for 77 elementary schools of which 58 serve primarily low-income students. Study 2 involved direct observation and interview data from 6 schools in DCPS that ranged in performance on student growth measures. Through these two studies, the partnership team identified teacher and school practices, along with other variables, associated with reading gains for the lowest performing K–3 students.

Key Outcomes:

Study 1 generated findings by completing secondary analysis using data from the 2016–17 through the 2018–19 school years for teachers and students in grades K–2.

  • A larger percentage of variation in students' lower early literacy gains was attributable to individual teachers, 16 to 18 percent, than to schools (5 to 10 percent).
  • Scores on the district's Five Essential Practices teacher observation instrument had a positive relationship with students' fall-to-spring gains on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment.
  • Teachers exhibited variation in their mastery of each of the Five Essential Practices.
  • Teacher dismissal threats stemming from the district's teacher evaluation system led to meaningful changes in the easier-to-implement Essential Practices in the following year and to voluntary attrition for ranked teachers.

Study 2 carried out observations of K–3 classrooms at 6 schools during 2019–20.

  • Straightforward district-recommended practices were being implemented in most or all classrooms.
  • District curriculum materials were being used consistently with some variation in time allocation and use of individual responses.
  • High variation among teachers occurred for the effective use of literacy centers and the use of higher order literacy practices, particularly the use of discussion of academically productive talk (whole class and peer-to-peer).

Structured Abstract

Partnership Activities: Monthly meetings of the partnership addressed the design and implementation of that qualitative work, the results and interpretation of both the quantitative and qualitative work, and their dissemination. The research team used DCPS's instruments to collect data in schools and provide feedback on the instruments and compared their ratings to those of the DCPS team.

Setting: The project took place in the DCPS, an urban school district with approximately 48,000 students.

Sample: Participants included students in grades K–3 in DCPS's 77 elementary schools of which 58 schools primarily serve students from low-income backgrounds.

Data Analytic Strategy: The partnership team carried out two studies on K–3 students' reading achievement and the factors linked to reading achievement. First, through a secondary analysis of administrative data on students, teachers, and schools from three merged databases (student, teacher, and school), the team completed a cross-sectional analysis for K–2 students enrolled in academic year (AY) 2018–19 and a longitudinal analysis of the student cohort in kindergarten in AY 2015–16 through grade 2 in AY 2018–19. Second, the team collected and analyzed primary data (observations, interviews, and questionnaires) from three pairs of demographically matched elementary schools (each pair included one school performing higher than expected in reading achievement and one underperforming school).

Related IES Projects: Sustaining Literacy Practices Over Time: Codifying Knowledge through Micro-credentialing (R305A220121)

Products and Publications

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