The study took place in 18 preschools in Tallahassee, Florida, and 30 preschools in Los Angeles, California. The majority of the preschools (77%) were Head Start programs
Eighteen preschools from Tallahassee, Florida, and 30 preschools from Los Angeles, California, were randomly assigned to a Literacy Express workshop group, a Literacy Express workshop plus mentoring group, or a control condition. This resulted in 15 preschools in each of the two Literacy Express groups and 18 preschools in the control group. The study began with 808 preschool children ranging in age from 36 to 69 months (mean age = 50.63 months). At posttest, 722 children remained in the sample and ranged in age from 36 to 69 months (mean age = 50.71 months). The sample included 55.7% African-American children, 35.2% Latino/Hispanic children, 7.9% Caucasian children, and 1.1% children of other races and ethnicities. Forty-nine percent of the children were female; 52% of the children in the California sites and 1% of the children in the Florida sites were
Spanish-speaking English language learners. All children were considered at risk for academic difficulties as determined by pretest scores on a measure of cognitive performance.
Preschools in the intervention group participated in a Literacy Express plus professional development via workshops group (“workshop group”) or a Literacy Express plus
professional development via workshops and mentoring group (“mentoring group”). Literacy Express is a preschool literacy-focused curriculum that is intended to promote
children’s emergent literacy skills. The curriculum used in this study (an earlier version) was structured around 11 thematic units (with games and activities in each unit) that
were sequenced in order of complexity. In the earlier and the current versions of this curriculum, 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. The workshop group teachers participated in two-day workshops at the beginning of the school year and three half-day workshops during the school year.
The mentoring group teachers participated in the same workshops and received regular classroom visits by a trained project mentor.
Classrooms in the business-as-usual comparison group participated in the preschool’s standard curriculum, which in most cases was High/Scope or Creative Curriculum®
The primary outcome domains assessed were children’s oral language, print knowledge, phonological processing, and cognition, all of which were assessed with standardized
measures. Oral language was assessed with the Expressive Communication subtest from the Preschool Language Scales–IV (PLS-IV). Print knowledge was assessed with
the Print Knowledge subtest from the Preschool Comprehensive Test of Phonological and Print Processing (Pre-CTOPPP). Phonological processing was assessed with the
Blending and Elision subtests from the Pre-CTOPPP. Cognition was assessed with three subtests from the Pre-CTOPPP: Non-Word Repetition, Word Span, and Rapid Object
Naming. 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 in a
quasi-random order at pretest and posttest. All assessments were conducted with all children in English. Research staff also observed the study classrooms for three hours
twice a year to determine implementation fidelity and to administer two general measures of classroom language and literacy, but these measures are not discussed further in
this WWC intervention report. For a more detailed description of the outcome measures, see Appendices A2.1–A2.5.
Support for implementation
The research staff provided all materials and training for the Literacy Express intervention groups. Classroom teachers and aides attended a two-day curriculum-specific professional development workshop at the start of the school year, as well as three half-day curriculum-specific professional development workshops throughout the school year. In all workshops, staff participated in both teacher-directed and hands-on components. Classroom staff in the mentoring group received regular classroom visits throughout the school year from trained project teacher-mentors in addition to the professional development activities.