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IES Grant

Title: Teaching Together: The Added Value of Tiered School Plus Home Interventions for Young Children At-Risk for Language Difficulties
Center: NCER Year: 2021
Principal Investigator: Zucker, Tricia Awardee: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2021 – 06/30/2025) Award Amount: $3,799,891
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305A210157

Co-Principal Investigator: Cabell, Sonia

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to examine the efficacy of the Teaching Together program for pre-kindergarten (pre-k) children who are at risk of academic difficulties due to limited oral language skills. This project is unique in its focus on oral language supports in both the classroom and home settings. In early childhood classrooms serving low-income students, up to 50% of children may exhibit language difficulties, which are associated with long-term challenges for reading and academic success. Yet evidence demonstrates that early language difficulties can be reduced or ameliorated by providing universal/Tier 1 or targeted/Tier 2 language interventions at school and home. Tiered language supports may ameliorate language difficulties for many pre–k children who need increased opportunities to build language skills, including English learners (ELs).

Project Activities: In Year 1, researchers will first train research staff and recruit the study sample. In Years 2 and 3, the randomized control trial (RCT) will take place with identical procedures across two cohorts. For each cohort, classrooms will be assigned to a business as usual (BAU) control group or one of two intervention groups. Specifically, the research team will train half of the intervention teachers to deliver a classroom only intervention, Developing Talkers (DT). In the other half of intervention classrooms, researchers will train teachers to deliver DT as well as family engagement approaches in the aligned Teaching Together (TT) program. The research team will collect child assessments before and after the pre-k intervention and a later kindergarten follow up. The efficacy of two delivery contexts, school-only (DT) versus school-plus-home (DT+TT), will be compared on these child outcomes. Primary analyses will also examine the impact two intensities of intervention — Tier 1 and Tier 2 — within each of the school and home settings. Researchers will also examine for whom and under what conditions the interventions are more or less beneficial, including potential moderators (age, home language, parent education) and mediators (dosage), and the cost-effectiveness of each intervention setting and tier relative to the control group. In Year 4, researchers will disseminate results; if there are beneficial findings, the team will make the classroom and family resources available broadly.

Products: Researchers will produce evidence of the efficacy of two fully-developed, tiered language support programs designed for use in distinct school and school-plus-home settings. At national conferences, local conferences, and meetings with local community partners, the researchers will share findings and beneficial resources with researcher, educator, and family audiences. Family resources will be available in an open-access online activity collection at that is used by about 25,000 teachers and has over 1 million views by parents each year. Researchers will also prepare a final dataset from this project for public access.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Planned settings in Texas include pre-k classrooms and the homes of these 4-year-olds. Classrooms will provide the majority of instruction in English. The family intervention will be offered in English or Spanish, according to parent preference.

Sample: The research team will recruit pre-k classrooms in North Texas including approximately 90 teachers and an average of 6 children per class (n = 540). They will screen all children enrolled in these classes for eligibility only if they demonstrate weak English oral language skills (absolute criterion). Children will largely be from low-income backgrounds and diverse ethnicities (about 63% Hispanic or Latino, 23% African American, 11% White). This will include 10-30% ELs who mostly speak Spanish at home. Parent-child dyads (n =540) will participate in home observational assessments in English or Spanish.

Intervention: The 20-week DT classroom intervention includes four Tier 1 whole-group and four Tier 2 small-group lessons per week delivered by the classroom teacher. Teachers will also complete general language support online modules for 3 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) credits. In addition to the classroom supports, the TT family intervention includes: (a) family engagement online modules for teachers (1.5 CPE hours); (b) Tier 1 after- school family events/workshops; (c) Tier 1 parent-teacher conferences to create action plans to support learning at home and school; and (d) four Tier 2 remote coaching sessions. The interventions emphasize shared book reading, vocabulary explanations, multiple-turn conversations, and language support strategies. Teachers and parents receive aligned, weekly text messages with activity videos and tips to support children's oral language.

Research Design and Methods: Two sequential cohorts of teachers and children will participate in the RCT. First, researchers will randomly assign classrooms to one of three conditions: BAU control group, classroom only intervention (DT), or classroom plus home intervention (DT + TT). Next, screening measures will identify eligible students who demonstrate risk based on the CIRCLE Progress Monitoring rapid vocabulary naming measure. The team will further randomly assign eligible students in DT intervention classrooms to: (a) Tier 1 classroom only, or (b) Tier 1+2 classroom only. In addition, they will randomly assign students in DT+TT classrooms to: (c) Tier 1+2 classroom plus family Tier 1, or (d) Tier 1+2 classroom plus family Tier 1+2.

Control Condition: Classrooms randomly assigned to the waitlist control group will engage in BAU practices. BAU classrooms are expected to include routine shared book reading but heterogeneity in quality of teacher language input during this and language arts instruction. BAU family engagement approaches are expected to include school-wide communication and events.

Key Measures: Child pre-k outcomes include measures of classroom discourse, taught vocabulary, distal vocabulary (Receptive One Word Picture Vocabulary Test, Woodcock Johnson-IV ), and broad language (e.g., Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals; Test of Narrative Language; Quick Interactive Language Screener ). For students who speak Spanish at home, a dual-language battery will be administered. In the middle of the kindergarten year, a partial battery will be repeated to examine sustained effects. Key classroom measures assess quality and quantity of teacher-child discourse (e.g., Systematic Assessment of Book Reading, Early Childhood Language and Literacy Observation ). Parent outcomes include the frequency of home language activities and quality of shared book reading (Adult Child Interactive Reading Inventory, Family Involvement Questionnaire, Family and Child Experiences Survey ).

Data Analytic Strategy: Data analyses will include hierarchical linear modeling with covariates. The researchers will examine the importance of adult fidelity of implementation and the dosage received.

Cost Analysis: The team will conduct a cost analysis using the ingredients method. They will estimate cost effectiveness of the classroom and family interventions and compare the total costs of each increasingly intensive tier of intervention with observed effect sizes.

Related IES Projects: Teaching Together: A Multimedia School-Home Intervention for Young Children At-Risk for Academic Difficulties (R305A150319); Development and Validation of the Systematic Assessment of Book Reading (R305A150587)