The study was conducted in 11 public schools in an urban area.
Teachers identified first-graders from 26 classrooms in 11 schools whom they considered at risk for reading failure. The researchers then identified 121 students who scored at or below the 25th percentile on the Reading subtest of the WRAT-R as eligible for inclusion in the study. The treatment and comparison groups were formed partly by convenience and partly through random assignment, with some schools agreeing to allow students to serve only as the comparison group. After attrition, the analysis sample included 79 students (in 21 classes) in the treatment condition and 20 students (in 10 classrooms) in the comparison condition. The study was conducted in a single school year.
The tutoring lessons in phonics were drawn from Sound Partners. They targeted letter-sound correspondences, blending letters into sounds, reading and spelling phonetically regular words, and reading nondecodable and high-frequency words scheduled to appear in the text portion of the lesson. Tutors also worked with students who read from storybooks that had varying degrees of decodability, with one of the treatment groups reading from books with highly decodable words and the other treatment group reading from books with high-frequency but less decodable words. The WWC considers the two treatment groups to be variants of the Sound Partners intervention and so presents them as a single treatment group. Lessons were scripted, and all tutoring was one-on-one. Lessons were provided 30 minutes a day, four days a week, for 25 weeks.
Children in the control group received typical classroom instruction only, without tutoring in phonics or story reading.
At the conclusion of the intervention, the students were given the Phonemic Decoding and Sight Word reading subtests of the TOWRE; the Word Attack, Word Identification, and Passage Comprehension subtests of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test–Revised; the Bryant Pseudoword Test; the Reading subtest of the Wide Range Achievement Test–Revised; and fluency and accuracy reading tests from passages with highly decodable words, as well as passages with less decodable words. The study includes a text reading list that contained words that the students read as part of the Sound Partners curriculum. The WWC determined that this outcome was overaligned with the intervention and is therefore not included in this review. Students also took two spelling tests that are not included in this review because they are outside the scope of the Beginning Reading review protocol. For a more detailed description of the included outcome measures, see Appendices A2.1–A2.3.
Support for implementation
Tutors received scripted phonics lessons, directions for book reading, attendance forms and recording sheets for each student’s lesson coverage, and a set of books for reading practice. Research staff provided tutors with three hours of formal training in lesson procedures, conducted weekly observations, provided ongoing coaching in lesson delivery, and held monthly follow-up meetings.