The study includes 12 schools from a large, urban school district in the northwestern United States.
This sample was drawn from 12 participating schools, six of which were assigned as treatment sites, five as control sites, and one that included both treatment and control students. During the first month of first grade, 22 teachers referred students they judged to be at risk for reading; in all, 99 first-graders met the criteria for participation, which included (1) parental consent, (2) not repeating first grade, and (3) scoring below the 25th percentile on the WRAT-R. Students at treatment sites were assigned to tutors based on schedules and availability. Of the 78 students completing all phases of the study, the authors chose 57 to be included in the analyses based on the comparability of their pretest scores. The authors selected students to analyze for two treatment groups and a control group by matching triads of students as closely as possible on a pretest composite score calculated by averaging the z-scores of all pretest scores. Both treatment groups received 30 minutes of tutoring, but one of the treatment groups spent 10 of the minutes in oral reading practice and the other did not. The WWC considers the two treatment groups to be variants of the Sound Partners intervention and so combines them into a single treatment group.
In addition to regular classroom reading instruction, both intervention groups received supplementary individual tutoring using Sound Partners. Tutoring occurred for 30-minute sessions during the school day, four days a week, from October to May. One treatment group used Sound Partners phonics-based instruction for 15 to 20 minutes, followed by oral text reading practice in Bob Books® for the remaining 10 to 15 minutes. The other treatment group spent all 30 minutes using Sound Partners.
The comparison students received regular classroom reading instruction only.
Students were tested on a variety of measures, most of which are standardized tests. They included the WRAT-R Reading subtest; the WRMT-R/NU Word Attack, Word Identification, and Passage Comprehension subtests; the TOWRE Phonemic Decoding and Sight Word subtests; and a passage reading fluency test devised by the authors to measure the rate and accuracy at which students could read grade-appropriate texts. The authors also assessed spelling, but it is not included in this report because it is 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
Nineteen paraprofessional tutors were hired and paid by the schools in which they worked. More than half of the tutors had at least one year of Sound Partners tutoring experience. Experienced tutors received about two hours of initial training, and new tutors received about four hours of training.