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IES Grant

Title: Development and Validation of Complementary Measures of Early Writing: Teacher Practices and Child Outcomes
Center: NCER Year: 2021
Principal Investigator: Bowles, Ryan Awardee: Michigan State University
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2021 - 06/30/2025) Award Amount: $1,999,022
Type: Measurement Award Number: R305A210122

Co-Principal Investigators: Gerde, Hope; Bingham, Gary

Purpose: In this project, researchers will develop and validate complementary measures of early writing assessing both teacher practice (tWRITE) and child development (cWRITE). The tWRITE and cWRITE, together with the iWRITE, an intervention for teachers to enhance early writing development based on a previous IES funded study, will form the WRITE system. The innovative development of two assessments that are theoretically aligned and empirically linked will provide valid and reliable data on children's early writing development and offer opportunities for researchers to better understand early writing skills and help teachers improve their writing practices which promote these skills.

Project Activities: The project will involve validating the materials and scoring methods for the cWRITE and tWRITE with a largescale validation study involving 300 teachers and 900 3- to 5-year-old children from diverse backgrounds. The research team will conduct a usability study of the cWRITE and tWRITE involving 40 educational professionals.  

Products: The project will result in theoretically-aligned, validated, and usable measures of early writing skills for children (cWRITE) and teacher practices supporting early writing development (tWRITE). Both assessments, along with training materials, will be made freely available on the WRITE System website at the conclusion of the project.  The research team will disseminate information about the assessments and the WRITE System to researchers and educational professionals through research journals, practitioner-oriented journals, and other outlets such as professional listservs.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project takes place in early childhood programs in two states, Michigan, and Georgia.

Sample: Participants represent a variety of early childhood programs and are diverse in ethnicity and economic background. The research team will recruit teachers from a variety of early childhood programs in Michigan and Georgia; these programs are diverse in terms of race/ethnicity and SES background of teachers and students and are located in urban, suburban, and rural locations.

Intervention: The research team will base the development and validation of the tWRITE and cWRITE on an existing theory of early writing. tWRITE development will build on a tWRITE prototype, a measure that evidences good reliability and validity, to ensure better theoretical alignment and usability. cWRITE development will build on a comprehensive early writing framework and draw empirically from research by this research team that emphasizes multiple theoretical components of children's writing development, particularly generative knowledge that focuses on the ideas conveyed through writing. Assessments are based on the same theoretical framework, allowing for direct linking between specific teacher practice and specific child writing outcomes.

Research Design and Methods: In Activities 1-3, the research team will iteratively generate, review, pilot, and re-review elicitation materials and scoring methods for the cWRITE and tWRITE measures using a shared theoretical framework. All aspects of both measures will be reviewed by experts in early childhood writing and experienced teachers. Activities 4-5 will involve item selection and joint psychometric validation of the tWRITE and cWRITE by examining item functioning using factor analysis and Rasch measurement and fairness through investigation of differential item functioning, and considering interrelations between components of the tWRITE and cWRITE and with other assessments of classroom quality and child writing skills as well as other language and literacy skills. Activity 6 is a usability study to ensure that educational users can effectively administer the tWRITE and cWRITE.

Key Measures:  The research team will evaluate teachers' practices using the newly developed tWRITE, and standardized measures of classroom quality (ELLCO & CLASS). Children's writing will be assessed by the cWRITE, including tasks intended to elicit children's conceptual, procedural, and generative knowledge, and standardized measures of writing, print concepts, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and language.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use multi-unidimensional Rasch modeling and confirmatory factor analysis to address the internal structure validity of the tWRITE and cWRITE.  Researchers will use differential item functioning methods to examine fairness of the items. They will examine interrelations between the tWRITE and cWRITE using linear latent growth curve modeling. To establish evidence of validity through relations with other measures, the research team will examine correlations within a multilevel framework between the tWRITE and cWRITE and other classroom observation scores and child outcomes.

Cost Analysis: The tWRITE and cWRITE will be available for free on the existing WRITE System website. The cost analysis will focus on the amount of time and effort required to complete training, administer, and score the assessments for both researchers and educational professionals, in comparison to related assessments of classroom quality and children's early writing skills.

Related IES Project: Development and Feasibility of the Improving Writing Resources and Interactions in Teaching Environments through Professional Development (IWRITE-PD) for Teachers of Economically Disadvantaged Children (R305A150210)