WWC review of this study

The results of a randomized control trial evaluation of the SPARK literacy program.

Jones, C (2015). Milwaukee, WI: Socially Responsible Evaluation in Education (SREED), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Retrieved from https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/groups/uwm/SOE/docs/SREed/second-cohort-final-report.pdf Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED567484

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    389
     Students
    , grades
    K-2

Reviewed: November 2021

At least one finding shows strong evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
General Literacy Achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
372 students

56.00

51.30

Yes

 
 
14
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Students who were low-achieving at baseline;
41 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
25

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Reading Achievement

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Students who were low-achieving at baseline;
41 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
14

Renaissance Star Reading

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
340 students

396.60

366.90

Yes

 
 
7

Renaissance Star Reading

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

1 Year

Full sample;
390 students

321.40

294.20

Yes

 
 
6

Renaissance Star Reading

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

3 Years

Full sample;
325 students

467.50

427.30

Yes

 
 
6

Renaissance Star Reading

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

5 Years

Full sample;
318 students

500.60

465.50

Yes

 
 
5
Reading comprehension outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Reading Achievement

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
384 students

180.80

179.20

Yes

 
 
9
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Renaissance Star Reading

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

4 Years

Full sample;
307 students

525.00

486.30

Yes

--
School attendance outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

School Attendance

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
384 students

24.60

28.70

Yes

 
 
10
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

School Attendance

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
361 students

15.90

17.95

No

--

School Attendance

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

4 Years

Full sample;
315 students

19.09

21.44

No

--

School Attendance

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

5 Years

Full sample;
299 students

14.41

15.29

No

--

School Attendance

SPARK literacy model vs. Business as usual

3 Years

Full sample;
323 students

18.76

19.29

No

--


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: 50%
    Male: 50%

  • Urban
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    Wisconsin
  • Race
    Black
    76%
    Other or unknown
    24%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    16%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    84%

Setting

The study took place in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). Participants included kindergarten, first-, and second-grade students from seven MPS schools.

Study sample

The sample was evenly divided between male and female students. The majority of the participants were African American (76%). Of the remaining students, 16 percent identified their ethnicity as Hispanic. Almost all students (96%) were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. About 6 percent of participants had individual education plans (IEPs) for a speech or language disability. Students who had received a reading-related IEP or were English language learners were ineligible to participate in the evaluation.

Intervention Group

Future Forward (previously known as SPARK) is a 2-year literacy and family engagement program for students in the early grades that leverages a school–community–family partnership approach. The tutoring component is loosely based on the Reading Recovery program, which includes in-school tutoring with lesson plans and assessments that are analyzed by the students' teachers. Students are pulled out of non-core classes during the school day for 30-minute tutoring sessions, up to three times per week. The second component engages families in children's literacy development by having a parent partner work with each student’s family to bridge the divide between school and home. Literacy concepts are translated, families are educated about a variety of literacy activities, and literacy practices already happening in the home are validated. Parent partners stay connected with families through a monthly newsletter, monthly family events at each site, phone calls, and emails. To connect with families in their own space and learn about literacy activities already taking place in the home, parent partners conduct home visits for all students twice during the summer between their first and second year of participation and as needed during the school year.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison condition received business-as-usual reading instruction provided by the school district.

Support for implementation

Each site had a program manager, who was also a certified teacher, to oversee and support the tutors. Tutors participated in a series of training sessions at the beginning of the school year, and other individualized training sessions were developed during the year as needed. The tutors were observed during tutoring sessions and were provided with feedback following the observations.

In the case of multiple manuscripts that report on one study, the WWC selects one manuscript as the primary citation and lists other manuscripts that describe the study as additional sources.

  • Jones, C. J., Reeves, M., Li, D., & Gilman, L. (2021). What is the sustained impact of Future Forward on reading achievement, attendance, and special education placement five years after participation?. University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. https://uwm.edu/sreed/wp-content/uploads/sites/502/2021/04/The-Sustained-Impact-of-Future-Forward.pdf.

Reviewed: August 2016

At least one finding shows strong evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Alphabetics outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)

Spheres of Proud Achievement in Reading for Kids (SPARK) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
372 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
14
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)

Spheres of Proud Achievement in Reading for Kids (SPARK) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Grade: 1;
129 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
21

Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)

Spheres of Proud Achievement in Reading for Kids (SPARK) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Grade: K;
135 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)

Spheres of Proud Achievement in Reading for Kids (SPARK) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Grade: 2;
108 students

N/A

N/A

No

--
Reading achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Reading Assessment

Spheres of Proud Achievement in Reading for Kids (SPARK) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
384 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
9
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Reading Assessment

Spheres of Proud Achievement in Reading for Kids (SPARK) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Grade: 1;
137 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
15

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Reading Assessment

Spheres of Proud Achievement in Reading for Kids (SPARK) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Grade: K;
136 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP): Reading Assessment

Spheres of Proud Achievement in Reading for Kids (SPARK) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Grade: 2;
114 students

N/A

N/A

No

--


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: 50%
    Male: 50%

  • Urban
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    Wisconsin
  • Race
    Black
    75%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    16%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    84%

Setting

The setting of the study is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) students were in kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades. There were students from seven schools in the intervention and comparison conditions.

Study sample

In the analytic sample (n=389), 96% of the intervention group and 95% of the comparison group was free or reduced price lunch eligible. About half (49.5%) of the comparison group was female, and 51.3% of the intervention group was female. Approximately 3/4 of the sample were Black, 77% of the comparison group and 75% of the intervention group. 15% of the intervention group was Latino, and 17% of the comparison group was Latino, and the rest were designated as "other."

Intervention Group

The SPARK Program included tutoring and family engagement. The tutoring was provided to students for 30 minutes, up to 3 times per week, for 2 years. A certified teacher oversees the tutoring, and a set lesson plan template is used by the tutors and students for each session. All students are assessed with PALS (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening) to determine their needs and create individual lesson plans. The after-school program is based on the KidzLit program, that is built around multicultural books and follows a five part process. Finally, the family engagement component has a parent partner who works with each participating student's family, to bridge the divide between school and home.

Comparison Group

The nature of the comparison group condition was not specified, but it is inferred that the classroom activities would be business-as-usual, and these students would not have access to the intervention group services (tutoring of the same intensity, duration, and instructors), after-school programs, and family engagement support.

Support for implementation

The support provided for the SPARK intervention and associated randomized controlled trial study comes from a U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) grant award. SPARK had support for program implementation by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Public Schools. In SPARK, tutoring was planned and implemented by AmeriCorps members and other college students, which is an additional support structure. Certified teachers managed the tutors, who participated in a program training prior to the intervention and on an ongoing basis. In addition, tutoring observations were conducted by the certified teacher. Each site had a parent partner who worked with participants' families and conducted home visits for all students twice during the summer between their first and second years of the program. The parent partners also provided a monthly newsletter, monthly family events at each site, and connected with parents via phone and email.

 

Your export should download shortly as a zip archive.

This download will include data files for study and findings review data and a data dictionary.

Connect With the WWC

loading
back to top