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IES Grant

Title: A Replication Study to Examine the Efficacy of Sound Partners When Implemented by Peer Tutors
Center: NCER Year: 2022
Principal Investigator: Swanson, Elizabeth Awardee: University of Texas, Austin
Program: Research Grants Focused on Systematic Replication      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2022 - 06/30/2027) Award Amount: $4,000,000
Type: Replication Efficacy Award Number: R305R220024

Co-Principal Investigators: Vaughn, Sharon; Roberts; Greg; Wanzek, Jeanne

Purpose: This research team will carry out a replication randomized controlled trial (RCT) to examine the efficacy of Sound Partners, a reading intervention, delivered through cross-age peer tutoring.  The project features moderator analyses to examine how socioeconomic status (SES) is related to intervention effects on student reading outcomes. Early achievement gaps between children of high- and low-resource families have persisted over a long period of time for several reasons including that a) not all students receive appropriate reading instruction and intervention; b) teachers in schools with high proportions of students from low-resource families tend to be less experienced and potentially lack the knowledge to provide scientifically based reading instruction and intervention, and c) families are likely to have inadequate resources to provide interventions outside of the school day. Further, the learning loss for beginning readers resulting from suspended and altered educational opportunities is exacerbated by the pandemic and schooling interruptions and this may make it impracticable for schools to address all the needs of students on their own.

Project Activities: The researchers will conduct the study with a representative sample of students in 60 YMCA school programs and 1,800 students in Texas and Tennessee. The efficacy replication features a multi-cohort RCT to test the efficacy of Sound Partners when implemented by cross-age peer tutors or adult tutors compared to a business-as-usual (BAU) condition. Random assignment will be at the school level. At pre and posttest, the research team will measure reading outcomes among a) 1st and 2nd grade tutees and b) 4th and 5th grade tutors. At follow up during the fall semester after the RCT, the researchers will assess 1st and 2nd grade tutees on reading outcomes. The research team will also conduct a cost analysis.

Products: Products include deliverables for school-affiliated after school care providers, school leaders, policy makers, and education researchers. The research team will provide instructional resources (e.g., cross age peer tutoring program guides and PD manuals) and make them publicly available via the Meadows Center for Preventing  Educational Risk website. Publications in peer reviewed research and practitioner journals will also be produced.  The team will give presentations at research and practitioner conferences and provide information about the project's findings. The research team will also produce research-to- practice briefs, short informational videos, and conduct research debrief meetings with YMCAs to provide a "plain language" explanation of research findings and practical implications stemming from the research.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in 84 schools that contract with the YMCA for afterschool care in Texas and Tennessee.

Sample: The study sample includes 60 elementary schools in Texas and Tennessee that provide afterschool programming to their students.  Students include 1st and 2nd grade students who are below grade level in reading, and 4th and 5th graders, in the YMCA afterschool program will participate, with an anticipated total student sample size of 1,800 students.

Intervention: Sound Partners includes 30-minute lessons that include letter-sound correspondence, word reading, and connected text reading and is designed for use with early elementary learners struggling with reading.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct a multi-cohort RCT with randomization at the school level to examine the efficacy of Sound Partners when delivered by adult tutors (as in prior studies) or cross-age peer tutors (adaptation examined through this replication) within a YMCA school-sponsored afterschool program. Schools will be randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (1) adult tutors, (2) cross-age peer tutors, or (3) BAU. 1st and 2nd graders who attend the YMCA school program and are below grade level on the beginning of year reading screener will be identified by teachers for study eligibility. All 4th and 5th graders attending the YMCA school program are eligible for participation. All tutors (adults and peers) will be trained by researchers to implement Sound Partners and will meet with their tutees 3 times per week for 17 weeks (50 lessons total). Pretest and posttest reading data will be collected for 1st and 2nd grade tutees and 4th and 5th grade tutors. Follow up data will be collected for the tutees the following fall.

Control Condition: One-third of the sample will be randomly assigned to a business-as-usual control condition. These students will experience typical YMCA school program activities documented through researcher observation.

Key Measures: The research team will administer outcome measures designed to assess the construct of reading including a) word reading: TOWRE Sight Word Efficiency, TOWRE Phoneme Decoding Efficiency, KTEA-3 Letter Word Recognition, b) oral reading fluency: TOSREC, DIBELS ORF, and C) reading comprehension: KTEA-3: Reading Comprehension. They will also use implementation fidelity as an outcome measure. Measures to assess moderation include access to extant student demographics and the School Climate Measure.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will analyze the data using actor-partner interdependence models. By modeling this nonindependence, APIM will yield unbiased estimates of outcomes for both members of the pair.

Cost Analysis: The research team will gather costs and will include all expenditures and what resources are needed to implement Sound Partners.  Upon completion of the cost analysis and impact analysis, the researchers will compute the resulting incremental cost-effectiveness ratio  which provides information on the cost of using each version of Sound Partners to achieve a one standard deviation improvement in student outcomes. The team will also compare the cost-effectiveness of the adult tutor implementation of Sound Partners to that of the peer-tutor implementation.

Related IES Projects: Efficacy of Sound Partners Supplemental Tutoring for ELL Students, Grades K–1 (R305A070324)