WWC review of this study

An investigation of preschool oral language improvements through Ladders to Literacy.

Russell, J. (2005). Unpublished master’s thesis, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH. (62329791).

  • Randomized controlled trial
    , grade

Reviewed: March 2013

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Oral language outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Type token ratio (TTR)

Ladders to Literacy vs. None


Preschool children;
34 students





Mean length utterance (MLU)

Ladders to Literacy vs. None


Preschool children;
34 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 35%
    Male: 65%

  • Rural, Urban
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    New Hampshire
  • Race
    Other or unknown
  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic or Latino    


The study took place in 12 Head Start classrooms in two urban and four rural areas in southern New Hampshire.

Study sample

This study was a posttest-only design (no pretest was possible due to difficulties in obtaining parental consent for study participation). The study was conducted with children from 12 Head Start classrooms in the 2002–03 school year. Twelve teachers participated in the study. The classrooms were selected in 2002 from a list of prospective study participants and then randomly assigned to either an intervention or a comparison group. The researchers first identified four urban full-day classrooms and randomly assigned two to the intervention group and two to the comparison group. They also selected (a) two urban half-day classrooms with high numbers of Spanish-speaking children, (b) two additional urban half-day classrooms, (c) two suburban/rural classrooms from towns with a kindergarten program, and (d) two classrooms from towns with no kindergarten program. From each group, one classroom was randomly assigned to the intervention and one to the comparison group. Study eligibility was limited to children speaking English as their primary language and not enrolled in a special education program. Among children meeting these eligibility criteria, the study author randomly selected 60 children to participate (33 intervention and 27 comparison). Of the 60 children selected for the study, 34 children received parental consent to participate in the study (18 intervention and 16 comparison). The analysis sample meets attrition standards for the Early Childhood Education topic area, as described in its review protocol. At study enrollment, children in the analysis sample averaged 4.7 years of age, 65% were male, 71% were Caucasian, 12% were Hispanic, 6% were African American, and none of the children were identified as having a disability.

Intervention Group

Intervention classrooms implemented Ladders to Literacy as a supplementary curriculum to The Creative Curriculum®. Teachers were trained to implement 18 language and literacy activities (of 60 that were available) across three domains (print/book awareness, metalinguistic awareness, and oral language). Fidelity of implementation was assessed twice during the study year, first in January/February 2003 and again in March/April 2003. For both the intervention (Ladders to Literacy plus The Creative Curriculum®) and comparison classrooms (The Creative Curriculum® alone), fidelity for The Creative Curriculum® was assessed using a checklist published by The Creative Curriculum® publishers. Fidelity to the Ladders to Literacy curriculum was assessed using an implementation checklist prepared by the Granite Ladders project staff. In the intervention group, implementation of both curricula was characterized as “moderate,” averaging 52%–61% of The Creative Curriculum® activities and 41%–54% of the Ladders to Literacy activities.

Comparison Group

The comparison group implemented The Creative Curriculum® without Ladders to Literacy. The Creative Curriculum® is a comprehensive curriculum for 3- to 5-year-old children. It addresses four areas of development: social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development. The curriculum required the physical space of the classroom to be structured into 10 interest areas: blocks, dramatic play, toys and games, art, library, discovery, sand and water, music and movement, cooking, and computers. Time was also allotted for outdoor activities. The 10 interest areas were designed to address curriculum content such as literacy, math, science, social studies, the arts, and technology, as well as process skills such as observing, exploring, and problem solving. Fidelity of implementation of The Creative Curriculum ® in the comparison group classrooms was assessed using a checklist published by The Creative Curriculum® publishers. Implementation was characterized as “moderate” for comparison group classrooms, with teachers implementing 46%–48% of the strategies included in The Creative Curriculum®.

Outcome descriptions

To measure oral language for posttests, researchers analyzed samples of children’s speech and the MLU and TTR calculations. The children were assessed after at least four months of exposure to the curriculum. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.

Support for implementation

Both intervention and comparison teachers received at least one day of training on The Creative Curriculum®. Intervention group teachers received an additional 2 days of training on Ladders to Literacy activities in early fall 2002. Technical assistance to implement Ladders to Literacy activities was available to the intervention teachers, if needed.


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