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IES Grant

Title: Varied Practice Reading for Middle School Students With or At Risk for Reading Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2021
Principal Investigator: Reed, Deborah Awardee: University of Tennessee
Program: Reading, Writing, and Language      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2021 – 6/30/2025) Award Amount: $1,999,912
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A220269

Previous Award Number: R324A210146
Previous Awardee: University of Iowa

Purpose: Students with or at risk for reading disabilities in Grades 6–8 need both literacy intervention and support for learning in the text-based content areas of science and social studies. However, middle schools struggle to offer intervention time during the day, and typically expose students to less complex text than is expected for achieving grade-level performance. Therefore, the research team will create a semester-long Tier 2 intervention, Varied Practice Reading (VPR), based on statistical learning principles. This differs from practice of high-frequency words in redundant contexts (such as repeated reading) because it relies on the processes through which learners implicitly compute statistical regularities in the environment and generalize these associations to new environments and tasks. The approach used in VPR will provide students multiple exposures to critical science and social studies language and information while building students' reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension as well as writing skills. Additionally, VPR's promise for improving students' literacy, science, and social studies performance will be tested.

Project Activities: The research team will iteratively develop one grade level of VPR at a time in each of the first 3 years of the project. When all the materials for Grades 6–8 have been created and refined, a pilot test of the complete intervention package will be conducted in all grades during the fall semester of Year 4. In each year, the feasibility and utility of the intervention will be assessed. During the pilot, the research team also will analyze implementation costs and student outcomes by comparing VPR treatment groups to the school partners' typical Tier 2 intervention groups.

Products: The product of this project will include a fully developed VPR intervention available on a digital platform for in-person or remote delivery in Grades 6–8. The intervention will be accompanied by tools for monitoring fidelity of implementation and teacher resources for preparing students for the intervention, monitoring students' performance during partner reading, assigning lessons targeted to individual student needs, and offering students additional guided and independent practice. Products also will include data on the promise of VPR for improving the literacy, science, and social studies performance of middle school students with or at risk for reading disabilities. Additional products include peer-reviewed publications, presentations, and additional dissemination products that reach education stakeholders such as parents, practitioners, and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The iterative development and pilot testing will take place in the Tier 2 intervention classes at middle schools in three different Iowa school districts.

Sample: Intervention students will be in Grades 6–8 and eligible for Tier 2 intervention based on grade-level reading proficiency benchmarks. Students will be excluded if they have intellectual disability, brain injury, profound hearing/vision loss, or a lack of English proficiency sufficient to read connected text. For field tests in Years 1–3, 50 students in the grade level under development will participate in the intervention. For the pilot test in Year 4, 100 students per grade level (300 total) will participate.

Intervention/Factors/Assessment: For each grade level, the intervention will include multiple sets of three passages with 85% or better overlap of unique academic words. Half of the passages will be fictional and half informational; half will be on common middle school science topics and half on social studies topics. The passages within a grade level will gradually progress in complexity as defined by quantitative and qualitative indices. Two days per week, pairs of students alternate reading the passages in succession and coaching each other by delivering feedback on reading strategy use and correcting reading errors. Materials are loaded on a digital platform and include scaffolds such as an error marking tool, and links to hear key words pronounced. Students are able to collaborate through video conferencing, so they can share screens with each other as they provide feedback. Teachers observe the dyads to gather information on student reading behaviors. Each day following the partner reading, students work individually on the digital platform to respond to inference-level multiple-choice questions and a writing prompt, all aligned with English language arts standards. Teachers use the performance and observational data to determine which targeted lessons to assign students to complete on the digital platform for the fifth day of each week.

Research Design and Methods:  The VPR materials developed by this project will be vetted by partners from a regional education agency and housed on the Iowa Reading Research Center's (IRRC's) digital platforms. A field test will be conducted each spring to assess the intervention's operational, technical, and schedule feasibility as well as its utility as a Tier 2 intervention. Results will be used to refine that grade's materials and improve the development of the materials for the next grade level in turn. After all the materials for Grades 6–8 have undergone this process, a pilot test of the complete intervention package will be conducted in all grades during the fall semester of Year 4. Intact Tier 2 intervention classes will be randomly assigned to the VPR treatment or the comparison. In addition to assessing the feasibility and usability of the intervention during the pilot, the research team also will conduct a cost analysis of implementing the full intervention and an analysis of VPR-treatment students' outcomes in comparison to peers' outcomes in the school partners' typical Tier 2 intervention.

Control Condition: VPR will be compared to the schools' business-as-usual Tier 2 intervention.

Key Measures: Text complexity will be measured with Lexile and Flesch-Kincaid readability, the Common Core Qualitative Dimensions of Text rubric, and student data on reader-text interactions. Recorded intervention sessions will be monitored with fidelity protocols. All participating students will be pre- and post-tested with six measures. Vocabulary, comprehension, science, and social studies abilities will be assessed with subtests of the norm-referenced Iowa Assessments. Fluency will be measured with the Texas Middle School Fluency Assessment and informational writing with researcher-developed writing prompts.

Data Analytic Strategy: The utility of VPR for Tier 2 will be analyzed via data visualization techniques (e.g., scatterplots of student's individual trajectories) and individual student's change scores. Because the VPR intervention is designed with peer collaboration but the comparison condition is not, our analysis of student outcomes will apply a special case of mixed-effect models. The research team will use an econometric fixed-effect model to account for the classroom effect in conjunction with a differential random-effect for the dyads. Sensitivity analyses will be performed by the leave-one-out method and compared to analyses with only complete cases, analyses with and without baseline adjustment, and intention-to-treat to average treatment effect.

Cost Analysis: Using the ingredients method, the research team will identify all resources used during program implementation and assign costs to these while accounting for depreciation, utilization, and geographic location. Sensitivity analysis will be applied if costs vary by school. If effects are found for VPR, the cost per unit of student gain will be calculated.