B. The Interventions
We did not design new instructional programs for this evaluation. Rather, we employed either parts or all of four existing and widely used remedial reading instructional programs: Spell Read P.A.T., Corrective Reading, Wilson Reading, and Failure Free Reading.
As the evaluation was originally conceived, the four interventions would fall into two instructional classifications with two interventions in each. The interventions in one classification would focus only on word-level skills, and the interventions in the other classification would focus equally on word-level skills and reading comprehension/vocabulary.
Corrective Reading and Wilson Reading were modified to fit within the first of these classifications. The decision to modify these two intact programs was justified both because it created two treatment classes that were aligned with the different types of reading deficits observed in struggling readers and because it gave us sufficient statistical power to contrast the relative effectiveness of the two classes. Because Corrective Reading and Wilson Reading were modified, results from this study do not provide complete evaluations of these interventions; instead, the results suggest how interventions using primarily the word-level components of these programs will affect reading achievement.
With Corrective Reading and Wilson Reading focusing on word-level skills, it was expected that Spell Read P.A.T. and Failure Free Reading would focus on both word-level skills and reading comprehension/vocabulary. In a time-by-activity analysis of the instruction that was actually delivered, however, it was determined that three of the programs—Spell Read P.A.T., Corrective Reading, and Wilson Reading—focused primarily on the development of word-level skills, and one—Failure Free Reading—provided instruction in both word-level skills and the development of comprehension skills and vocabulary.
- Spell Read Phonological Auditory Training (P.A.T.) provides systematic and explicit fluency-oriented instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics along with every-day experiences in reading and writing for meaning. The phonemic activities include a wide variety of specific tasks focused on specific skill mastery and include, for example, building syllables from single sounds, blending consonant and vowel sounds, and analyzing or breaking syllables into their individual sounds. Each lesson also includes reading and writing activities intended to help students apply their phonically based reading skills to authentic reading and writing tasks. The Spell Read intervention had originally been one of the two "word-level plus comprehension" interventions, but after the time x activity analysis, we determined that it was more appropriately grouped as a "word-level" intervention.
- Corrective Reading uses scripted lessons that are designed to improve the efficiency of instruction and to maximize opportunities for students to respond and receive feedback. The lessons involve very explicit and systematic instructional sequences, including a series of quick tasks that are intended to focus students' attention on critical elements for successful word identification as well as exercises intended to build rate and fluency through oral reading of stories that have been constructed to counter word-guessing habits. Although the Corrective Reading program does have instructional procedures that focus on comprehension, they were originally designated as a "word-level intervention," and the developer was asked not to include these elements in this study.
- Wilson Reading uses direct, multi-sensory, structured teaching based on the Orton-Gillingham methodology. The program is based on 10 principles of instruction, some of which involve teaching fluent identification of letter sounds; presenting the structure of language in a systematic, cumulative manner; presenting concepts in the context of controlled as well as non-controlled text; and teaching and reinforcing concepts with visual-auditory-kinesthetic-tactile methods. Similar to Corrective Reading, the Wilson Program has instructional procedures that focus on comprehension and vocabulary, but since they were originally designated as a "word-level" intervention, they were asked not to include these in this study.
- Failure Free Reading uses a combination of computer-based lessons, workbook exercises, and teacher-led instruction to teach sight vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. The program is designed to have students spend approximately one-third of each instructional session working within each of these formats, so that they are not taught simultaneously as a group. Unlike the other three interventions in this study, Failure Free does not emphasize phonemic decoding strategies. Rather, the intervention depends upon building the student's vocabulary of "sight words" through a program involving multiple exposures and text that is engineered to support learning of new words. Students read material that is designed to be of interest to their age level while also challenging their current independent and instructional reading level. Lessons are based on story text that is controlled for syntax and semantic content.