The study took place in four schools in an urban district.
Two schools volunteered to implement the intervention and two schools were recruited with a financial incentive (contributions to their school libraries) to serve as controls. Ten classes of 8 to 22 students participated in the study. Six of the ten teachers taught in general Kindergarten classes that included at least three children with disabilities. Two teachers taught in transition Kindergartens composed of students repeating Kindergarten (with or without diagnosed disabilities). Two teachers taught in special education classrooms. All classes included at least two children with disabilities. The children were predominantly European-American and African-American. Students were divided by ability level and labeled as typical learners or at-risk learners. At-risk learners were defined as children with low skills (children with high-incidence disabilities or whose standard scores fell below 85 at PPVT pretest). Pretest equivalence was not established for at-risk learners so this subgroup (including the two special education classes) was excluded from the review. Therefore, this intervention report focuses on the findings reported only for the typical learners. The analysis sample of typical learners included 64 students in the intervention group and 41 students in the comparison group across general education and transition classes.
In addition to their typical pre-reading instruction, children in intervention classes were given more than twenty activities from the Ladders to Literacy book, including sound
isolation, first sounds, rhyming pictures, rhyming, onsets and rhymes with first letters, invented spelling, story grammar, and integrating spelling and reading. The districtsponsored
pre-reading curriculum included reading and discussing Big Books, learning letters of the alphabet and common sounds, and practicing writing of letters.
Children in comparison classes received the same district-sponsored pre-reading curriculum as intervention classes. Children were also introduced to the concept of rhyme. Activities requiring blending or segmenting (beyond the initial sound) were not observed in any of the classes. The students were matched to the intervention students on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and demographic variables.
For both pretest and posttest, the author administered the Peabody Picture Vocabulary test, the test of Short Term Memory, the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement: Letter-Word Identification subtest, and four tasks: Rhyme Production, Segmenting, Blending, and Rapid Letter Naming. The Dictation subtest of the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement was also used in the study but is not included because it is outside the scope of this Beginning Reading review. (See Appendices A2.1–2.3 for more detailed descriptions of outcome measures.)
Support for implementation
In this intensive model of professional development, 14 days of teacher training were spread across the school year. Teachers discussed implementation of program activities, solved issues with materials, and shared data on the progress of their students. Teachers modeled instruction and rehearsed upcoming activities. Researchers worked with teachers to determine appropriate timing of activities and often observed students directly to supply the rationale for the next set of activities.