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IES Grant

Title: Lightning Squad: Evaluating the Efficacy of Computer-Assisted Tutoring with Cooperative Learning for Struggling Readers
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Madden, Nancy A. Awardee: Success for All Foundation
Program: Education Technology      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (08/01/19–07/31/22) Award Amount: $3,299,905
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305A190180

Co-Principal Investigator: Slavin, Robert

Purpose: In this project, researchers will evaluate the efficacy of Lightning Squad, a small-group tutoring intervention for grade school that combines technology and cooperative learning to support struggling readers. In the elementary grades, children without strong reading skills by middle school are less likely to succeed in school and in careers. Many studies have found positive effects of one-to-one tutoring by certified teachers on the reading performance of students who struggle with reading.

Project Activities: Researchers will evaluate whether providing two years of small-group computer-assisted tutoring can make a substantial difference in reading performance for struggling readers from at-risk backgrounds. Researchers will first randomly assign schools to receive either Lightning Squad or the regular classroom practices already in place. In Year 1, students in the experimental group in grades 2 and 3 who are reading in the lowest 25% of their grades on pretests will receive the intervention. In Year 2, the same group of students who enter grades 3 and 4 will receive the intervention. Paraprofessional tutors who participate in the study will receive training and coaching prior to implementation.

Products: The products of this project include evidence of the efficacy of Lightning Squad students' reading achievement, peer reviewed publications, and a publicly available dataset.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in elementary schools in suburban areas in California and Maryland.

Sample: The sample includes students initially in grades 2 and 3, reading in the lowest 25% of their grades on pretests. The schools have high proportions of students with low socioeconomic backgrounds. Participants will come from 40 schools, with approximately 42 tutor-eligible students per school, for a total of 1680 students.

Intervention: Lightning Squad is a mixed online and face-to-face intervention where pairs of students work on tablets and laptops to read words and stories presented by the computer, with a paraprofessional teacher providing targeted support as needed. The key components of the technology include: digital books, multimedia activities, such as games, puzzles, and videos, and a teacher dashboard to track student progress and provide instructional resources. Much of the content in Lightning Squad is adapted from the popular television programs Sesame Street and The Electric Company. All activities capture student performance data, which are used to continually adjust the pace and level of the content presented. Students eligible for tutoring work in pairs, alternating roles as "coach" and "player." Tutors assess mastery of skills, celebrate success, help when students experience problems, and manage students' behavior.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will employ a cluster randomized experiment. 40 high-poverty schools will be randomly assigned to the experimental or control groups over a two-year period. They will analyze mediators and moderator effects to explore for whom and under what conditions the outcomes are strongest. The team will assess students' reading skills at the beginning of the school year before participating in the study, and at the end of the school year after the intervention is complete.

Control Condition: Students in schools assigned to the control condition will receive business as-usual services, which may include other supplemental reading interventions. Control schools will receive cash payments to use for any instructional purpose.

Key Measures: Researchers will assess reading outcomes with the Woodcock Letter-Word Identification, Word Attack, and Passage Comprehension tests. Other measures include experimenter-designed assessments of reading self-efficacy and to assess the usability and feasibility. They will assess implementation fidelity and comparison group practices using observations and teacher logs.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use multilevel modeling to examine the efficacy of the Lightning Squad on student reading outcomes. Program impacts will compare posttest achievement of students in the treatment and control groups, controlling for Woodcock Letter-Word and Word Attack pretests, using HLM to account for clustering.

Related IES Projects:Tutoring With The Lightning Squad: Integrating Technology, Peers, and Home for Reading Success (EDIES15C0026)