Understanding written language is crucial to academic success in all content areas. Ensuring a strong foundation in the components of written language--that is, the literacy skills of reading, writing, and oral language--is essential if students are to read with understanding and, thus, is a primary goal of early literacy instruction and of the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast Improving Literacy Research Alliance. When students fall behind in developing literacy skills, early literacy intervention in kindergarten through grade 2 can reduce the number of students failing to attain grade-level expectations. There is a strong research base on the skills targeted by effective early literacy intervention. Effective early literacy instruction includes explicit instruction in phonological awareness, links from letters to sounds, decoding, and word study, as well as practice reading for accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. These skills are often delivered in multiple tiers of instruction that include the classroom at tier 1, supplemental, small-group intervention at tier 2, and intensive intervention at tier 3 for students who do not progress after a reasonable amount of time with tier 2 intervention. Furthermore, research has demonstrated the efficacy of directly teaching academic vocabulary and language to students to improve their comprehension. In grades K-2 this includes the oral language skills of listening comprehension, syntax, and vocabulary that predict comprehension outcomes, along with reading skills. An important consideration for schools and this study is to determine which instructional materials to use in tier 2 early literacy intervention. One approach is to use the tier 2 materials embedded in the existing core reading program selected for classroom instruction, which is appealing because these materials are aligned with core classroom instruction and do not require the purchase of additional materials. But even though these embedded tier 2 materials may claim to be research-based, they are rarely evaluated empirically. Another approach is to select tier 2 standalone instructional materials and strategies outside the existing core reading program. If the standalone materials are backed by strong evidence that they support learning in reading and language, it is reasonable to expect that the standalone approach will lead to better outcomes for small-group tier 2 intervention than will an embedded approach that has not been empirically evaluated. Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast sought to explore whether providing at-risk students with small-group tier 2 intervention using a standalone intervention leads to better reading and language outcomes than does using an embedded intervention. To address this question, 55 low-performing schools, as identified by the state's school grading system, in south, central, and north Florida were randomly assigned to implement a pullout standalone or embedded tier 2 intervention for 45 minutes daily throughout the school year. In each school the intervention was used in groups of four students in grades K-1 and five students in grade 2. All students were among those identified as being at risk of literacy failure. Key findings include: (1) Students at risk of literacy failure in grades K-2 improved, on average, 13-25 percentile points on reading outcomes and 6-25 percentile points on language outcomes, in both standalone and embedded intervention schools; (2) The standalone intervention did not significantly improve reading or language outcomes relative to the embedded intervention among students in grades K-2, except for spelling in grade 2. The standalone intervention led to significantly better grade 2 spelling outcomes than did the embedded intervention; (3) The two interventions had similar impacts on reading and language outcomes in grades K-2 for groups of students who differed on baseline performance and for schools from the 2013/14 and 2014/15 cohorts, except for spelling in grade 2. Again, the standalone intervention led to significantly better grade 2 spelling outcomes among students with low baseline spelling scores than did the embedded intervention; (4) The two interventions had similar impacts on reading and language outcomes among English learner students and non-English learner students in grades K-2, except for some reading outcomes in kindergarten; and (5) In kindergarten, English learner students in embedded intervention schools performed better in phonological awareness than did non-English learner students, but non-English learner students in standalone intervention schools performed better in word reading than did English learner students. In embedded intervention schools, non-English learner students performed better in word reading in kindergarten than did English learner students. Data, outcomes, intervention, and methodology is appended.
ERIC DescriptorsAt Risk Students, Data Analysis, Data Use, Disadvantaged Youth, Elementary School Students, Emergent Literacy, English Language Learners, Grade 1, Grade 2, Instructional Effectiveness, Intervention, Kindergarten, Language Skills, Literacy, Literacy Education, Randomized Controlled Trials, Reading Improvement, Spelling, Student Characteristics, Student Improvement
Southeast | Publication Type: Impact Study | Publication
Date: January 2017