The Literacy Express study was conducted with children from 12 schools and 19 classrooms selected from public prekindergarten programs in Florida.
This study, conducted during the 2003/04 and 2004/05 school years, included three intervention groups: Literacy Express, DLM Early Childhood Express supplemented with Open Court Reading, and a control group. Eighteen schools were initially recruited to participate in the study. Sixteen of these were assigned a letter grade of A, B, C, or D as part of Florida’s school grading system (2 schools were not part of the grading system and were dropped from the study). School grades were used as a blocking variable, and schools within each grade were ranked on average number of years of teaching experience. One additional school joined the study late (for a total of 17 participating schools). Schools were then grouped into triplets and randomized into three conditions: Literacy Express (6 schools), DLM (5 schools), and control (6 schools). Although schools were randomized into three groups, this review is restricted to a comparison of Literacy Express with the control group. School is the unit of assignment; if a school had multiple preschool classrooms, all of those classrooms were assigned to the same intervention. The study as reviewed included 6 Literacy Express and 6 control schools and 10 Literacy Express and 9 control classrooms and began with a total of 196 children (99 Literacy Express and 97 control). The parental consent rate was 95% for the combined treatment group and 93% for the control group. At baseline, children in the study averaged age 4.6; 54% were male; and 6% were Hispanic, 30% were Caucasian, and 59%
were African American. The analysis sample included between 177 and 188 children, depending on the outcome measure. There was no attrition of schools. Depending on the outcome, child-level attrition ranged from 6% to 10% for Literacy Express and from 2% to 9% for the control group.
Literacy Express is a preschool literacy-focused curriculum that is intended to promote children’s emergent literacy skills. The version of the curriculum used in this study was structured around 11 thematic units (with games and activities in each unit). The version used in this study and the current version of the curriculum sequence the units in order of complexity. Each unit includes children’s books that address theme-relevant vocabulary for small- and large-group reading activities. Each thematic unit includes small-group activities that provide children with the opportunity to attend to and practice skills related to oral language, phonological sensitivity, and print awareness and to receive individual feedback. Small-group activities are conducted three or four times a week. The curriculum provides guidance to teachers on grouping children who are
progressing at similar rates. Large-group and extension activities provide opportunities for children to use new skills. Fidelity observations were conducted in treatment and control classrooms during February 2004 and April/May 2004 using the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO) tool and the Center for Improving the Readiness of Children for Learning and Education (CIRCLE) observation tools. Observations lasted 2.5 to 3 hours in each classroom. Researchers used site-specific implementation and fidelity data to rate each treatment classroom on the global fidelity measure as High (3.0), Medium (2.0), Low (1.0), or Not at All (0.0). Researchers also provided a global rating for the control group. Literacy Express was rated in the High-Medium range (2.5) on the global implementation fidelity measure, whereas the control group was rated at the Medium level (2.0).
Teachers of control group classrooms were trained to use the High/Scope curriculum. Training provided to teachers in control classrooms included a week-long summer institute conducted by High/Scope trainers prior to the start of the project, additional training sessions throughout the school year conducted by High/Scope and district personnel, and classroom visits by the High/Scope trainer.
The primary outcome domains assessed were children’s oral language, print knowledge, phonological processing, and math, all of which were assessed with standardized
measures. Oral language was assessed with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III (PPVT-III) and the Grammatic Understanding subtest from the Test of Language
Development–Primary III (TOLD-P:3). Print knowledge was assessed with the Test of Early Reading Ability–III (TERA-3) and the Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ-III) Letter-Word
Identification and Spelling subtests. Phonological processing was assessed with the Elision subtest from the Preschool Comprehensive Test of Phonological and Print Processing
(Pre-CTOPPP).2 Math was assessed with the WJ-III Applied Problems subtest, the Composite Score from the Child Math Assessment–Abbreviated (CMA-A), and the
Building Blocks Shape Composition test. Pretesting was done in fall of the preschool year, and posttesting was done in spring of the preschool year. Trained research staff
administered all assessments, which were conducted with all children in English. Research staff also observed the study classrooms for three hours twice a year using the
ELLCO and CIRCLE observation measures, but these measures are not discussed further in this WWC intervention report. For a more detailed description of these outcome
measures, see Appendices A2.1–A2.5.
Support for implementation
Teachers received curriculum training from the Florida research team for four days in July 2003, prior to the start of the 2003/04 school year. The first two days of the training
were spent in a workshop setting, and the other two days were used for team planning. The workshop training session familiarized teachers and their aides with the curriculum
materials and provided hands-on experience in leading curricular activities. Videotaped training was made available for teachers who could not attend in person. Teachers and
aides attended a two-hour training session every other month during the school year.