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IES Grant

Title: Content-Rich Vocabulary Development to Improve Reading Achievement of Struggling Adolescent Readers
Center: NCER Year: 2007
Principal Investigator: Goldenberg, Claude Awardee: Stanford University
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $1,999,939
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305B070016
Description:

Previous Award Number:: R305B070688
Previous Institution:: California State University, Long Beach

Purpose: Poor reading achievement continues to be a national concern, particularly among students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, minority students, and English-language learners. The issue is particularly acute among adolescents: Although there have been modest gains in fourth-grade reading scores nationwide over the past five years, eight-grade scores have declined. The premise of this project is that limited vocabulary, and the limited background knowledge that accompanies it, severely limits the reading comprehension of struggling adolescent readers. Clearly, other issues can contribute to poor adolescent reading, such as inadequate reading fluency or lack of skill in using reading strategies. However, there is growing evidence that poor vocabulary and inadequate background knowledge create significant obstacles for many students.

The purpose of this project is to develop a content-rich vocabulary program for struggling adolescent readers and to obtain pilot data on the association between exposure to the program and subsequent vocabulary and reading comprehension gains.

Project Activities: The project will be conducted in urban school districts with substantial numbers of struggling adolescent readers. Project participants will be seventh- and eighth-grade students with adequate decoding skills but poor reading comprehension; a substantial number of participants will be English-language learners. Many of the students will be from low socioeconomic status (SES) and minority backgrounds. In the Development Phase (years 1–2), the researchers will work with middle school English and history teachers to develop the Content-Rich Vocabulary program. They will conduct observational studies in classrooms and elicit teacher feedback to develop and refine the program.

In the Field Test Phase (years 3–4), the researchers will conduct a randomized study with eight schools assigned either to experimental or control conditions to establish whether there is plausible evidence of the program's effect on vocabulary and reading comprehension when compared to current instructional practice. Outcome measures will include curriculum-specific vocabulary and reading comprehension measures, as well as general measures of reading vocabulary and comprehension, including the Gates-MacGinitie test of reading. Field test data will be analyzed using hierarchical models. Teacher feedback on program design features and implementation data will be analyzed using simple descriptive methods.

Products: The expected outcomes of this research include a fully developed Content-Rich Vocabulary program, as well as published reports on the development and evaluation of this program for struggling adolescent readers.

Structured Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop, then field test a vocabulary intervention program (Content-Rich Vocabulary) targeted at helping struggling seventh- and eighth-grade readers, both English learners and English speakers, learn vocabulary that is critical for comprehending content area texts, specifically in social studies.

Population: During the curriculum development phase of the study, the research team will work with 12 middle school English and history teachers. Project participants during the field test will be seventh- and eighth-grade students with adequate decoding skills but poor comprehension; a substantial number of participants will be English-language learners. Many of the students will be from low socioeconomic and minority backgrounds.

Intervention: The intervention will include the following features: a student instructional program, accompanied by teacher materials to support implementation, that targets Content-Rich Vocabulary needed by struggling adolescent; a focus on teaching two types of individual words: high-frequency words used by mature readers that carry information across domains (e.g., exposure, variation), and domain-specific words highly pertinent to history/social studies ; a focus on word-learning strategies such as the meanings of high-utility prefixes, suffixes, and roots, and using contextual clues within sentences, including appositive forms, and synonym, definition, and antonym clues; documentation of wide reading to extend word use through a log system; documentation of word awareness beyond the classroom through a Vocabulary Notebook; and curriculum modules designed to fit into either a regular 40-minute English class or as a separate 20- or 40-minute additional period, depending upon the results of the observational studies. This intervention will support rather than replace a core language arts curriculum. It is intended to supplement the English language arts program.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will conduct observational studies and elicit teacher feedback to develop and refine the program. In the Field Test Phase (years 3–4), the researchers will use a randomized study with eight schools (at least three classrooms per school) assigned either to experimental or control conditions to establish whether there is plausible evidence of the program's effect on vocabulary and reading comprehension when compared to a current instructional practice.

Control condition: Participants in the control condition will receive their regular classroom instruction.

Key Measures: Outcome measures will include curriculum-specific vocabulary and reading comprehension measures, as well as generalized measures of reading vocabulary and comprehension, including the Gates-MacGinitie test of reading.

Data Analytic Strategy: Field test data will be analyzed using hierarchical models. Teacher feedback on program design features and implementation data will be analyzed using simple descriptive methods.

Products: Word Intelligence: Developing Academic and Content Vocabulary.

Project Website: Word Intelligence™: Developing Academic and Content Vocabulary

** This project was submitted to and funded under Interventions for Struggling Adolescent and Adult Readers and Writers in FY 2007.


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