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IES Grant

Title: Efficacy of Story Friends Vocabulary Curriculum Targeting Preschoolers At Risk for Language and Literacy Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Goldstein, Howard Awardee: University of South Florida
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2020 - 06/30/2025) Award Amount: $3,298,903
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R324A200179

Co-Principal Investigator: Kelley Spencer, Elizabeth

Purpose: This project aims to evaluate the efficacy of Story Friends, a supplemental vocabulary curriculum targeting preschoolers who demonstrate oral language deficits that put them at risk for language and reading disabilities. Expanding a child's range of sophisticated academic vocabulary has the potential to contribute to the prevention of later reading problems. Story Friends can be implemented with high fidelity in preschool classrooms within a Multi-Tiered System of Supports framework. Whole-class instruction (Tier 1) is supplemented by small-group intervention for children with oral language delays (Tier 2). Results from pilot studies revealed substantial gains for both children with typical language who received Tier 1 instruction and children with limited oral language who received both Tier 1 and Tier 2 instruction. The current study will determine whether Story Friends has an impact on children receiving Tier 1 and children receiving Tier 1 plus Tier 2 instruction on vocabulary, expressive and receptive language, and listening comprehension outcomes. A cost-effectiveness analysis will examine the relative value of Story Friends compared to storybook listening.

Project Description: This cluster randomized controlled trial will evaluate the efficacy of the Story Friends vocabulary curriculum on improving vocabulary and language outcomes for preschool children who are and are not at risk for language and reading disabilities as well as the cost-effectiveness of the intervention.

Products: The primary product of this project will be evidence for the efficacy of Story Friends on vocabulary and language outcomes for preschoolers at risk and not at risk for language and reading disabilities. The project also will result in a final dataset to be shared, peer-reviewed publications and presentations, and additional dissemination products that reach education stakeholders such as practitioners and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in public preschools in Florida.

Sample: A total of 96 classrooms will participate, with teachers and paraeducators administering the intervention. Within each of the 96 participating classrooms, there will be 8 participating children, with 4 at-risk children who demonstrate language deficits and 4 children with average or above language skills, for a total of 768 preschoolers.

Intervention: Over the course of a school year, Story Friends provides explicit and systematic instruction of academic vocabulary words and meanings. Tier 1 instruction is delivered to the whole class through a weekly storybook read aloud and extension materials that provide teachers and parents with prompts, examples, and suggested activities for practice and review. Tier 2 is small-group instruction provided as a storybook listening center activity three times per week, where children identified as having oral language delays receive explicit vocabulary instruction embedded into pre-recorded audio narration. Children learn four new academic words per week. In addition to the primary curricular components, materials are sent home each week to encourage parents to practice at home with their children. Each classroom component has been designed for ease of use by paraprofessionals and teachers.

Research Design: Using a cluster randomized design, four cohorts of 24 classrooms per year will participate in this efficacy trial. Classrooms will be randomly assigned to the treatment or control conditions. Learning of target words will be assessed after each unit of instruction and at 4 months post intervention to evaluate maintenance effects. Long-term effects of Story Friends will be evaluated by collecting kindergarten language and literacy assessments and results from school district assessments for participating children. An ingredients approach will be used to calculate costs and a cost-effectiveness analysis will examine the relative value of Story Friends (compared to storybook listening) by computing the incremental cost per unit improvement in primary student outcomes.

Control Condition: Children in classrooms randomly assigned to the control condition also will listen to the Story Friends books during whole-class read alouds and small-group centers, but without embedded vocabulary instruction. Daily sessions will be delivered in the same format as in the experimental condition and teachers will be given general information about how to facilitate language development during book reading.

Key Measures: A range of measures will be used to address the research questions. At-risk students will be identified using the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals- Preschool. Student learning trajectories will rely on curriculum-based measures of vocabulary learning (Vocabulary Unit Tests). Summative tests of language (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Expressive Vocabulary Test, Assessment of Story Comprehension, Listening subtest of the Narrative Language Measures) and iReady, adistrict-adopted computer-based literacy and math assessment will provide an estimate of potential distal effects in kindergarten. Teacher and family surveys will be used to describe the demographics of the sample and classroom observations and satisfaction surveys will be used to judge fidelity, feasibility, and social validity. To estimate costs, information will be gathered using teacher logs, in-person observations, and facilitator logs.

Data Analysis: Multilevel modeling, using pretest scores as the primary covariates, will be used to analyze the data from this efficacy trial to account for the nesting of individuals in classrooms. Cost-effectiveness analysis will use hierarchical linear modeling to compare the ratio of outcomes to estimated costs across experimental conditions using pretest scores as the primary covariates.

Related Projects: Explicit Vocabulary Instruction in Automated Listening Centers for Young Children with Language Delays (R324A150132); Center for Response to Intervention in Early Childhood (R324C080011)