The study took place in a school district in southern California. The average enrollment for the 10 participating schools was 880. Over 90% of the students enrolled in these
schools were Latino or Hispanic, 74% were limited English proficient, and 95% qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.
Eligible participants for the study were students who enrolled in their respective schools from first grade through fifth grade, considered Spanish their primary home language,
had limited English proficiency at the time of enrollment, and were in a Spanish transitional bilingual program. Among the pool of eligible English language learners, 180
were randomly selected at the beginning of second grade from five intervention schools and five neighboring schools, then matched on academic achievement, percentage of
students with limited English proficiency, percentage of students in the free or reduced-priced lunch program, school enrollment, and ethnic composition. Of the 180 English
language learners, 125 remained at their respective school through fifth grade, from which 42 intervention-group English language learners and 42 comparison-group English
language learners matched on first grade Spanish reading and language and transition status were selected for data analysis.
English language learners in the intervention group participated in a transitional bilingual program, which covered several transitional phases as they progressed from receiving
instruction in their primary language to instruction in English. English language learners were in the Pre-Transition phase in the second and third grades, in Transition I in
the fourth grade, and in Transition II in the fifth grade. Transition II is the only phase during which instruction was dedicated completely to reading and writing in English, and
English language learners were assessed with English language measures. Transition II services were provided only in grade 4 or 5, depending on whether a student was ready
for English-only instruction. The earlier transition phases involved academic support and assessments in both English and Spanish. This transition program incorporated 12
instructional components, including Instructional Conversions and Literature Logs. Instructional Conversations involved ongoing discussions, while Literature Logs (and writing
projects) entailed writing activities. Teachers assisted English language learners in understanding how the experiences of a character in a story relate to their own experiences.
Writing assignments were intended to encourage English language learners to think about and express ideas, as well as extract meaning from the stories. The Instructional
Conversations were intended to provide a forum for sharing ideas and a more complex understanding of story themes. English language learners studied literature during each
phase, practiced using reading comprehension strategies, and read assigned books independently. The assignments were based on each English language learner’s reading
level. Additionally, for 45 minutes per day during the Pre-Transition phase, teachers provided instruction using the English Language Development through Literature program.
Instruction was provided in small groups comprised of English language learners with similar levels of English language proficiency. Three or more times per week, teachers
read aloud for approximately 20 minutes. English language learners also chose a book or story to read independently each day and completed short assignments for the ones
that they found most engaging. Additionally, they wrote in journals during the beginning stages of English writing and received written responses from the teacher. Instructional
Conversations and Literature Logs were two of the 12 components of the language arts program that was implemented.
English language learners in the comparison group met the same criteria as those in the intervention group. English language learners in the comparison group participated in
the district’s typical bilingual education program. In the primary grades, for approximately 20–30 minutes each day, English language learners received instruction in English
language development. Instruction for the rest of the day was in Spanish. When they demonstrated proficiency in Spanish reading and writing, and basic proficiency in relation
to oral English skills (the end of second grade through the beginning of third grade), they continued Spanish language arts, and began receiving reading and writing instruction
in English (transition stage). After approximately 3–6 months, English language learners began a mainstream English program. The comparison group did not receive the
transition program that incorporated 12 instructional components, including Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs, which were taught to English language learners in
the intervention group.
English language learners’ reading and English language development were assessed using the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) and the Criteria for Addition of Reading in English (CARE). Reading outcomes were also assessed using performance assessments. Because most English language learners in grades 1–4 took the CTBS and performance assessment in Spanish, findings from these grades are not included in this report. Only findings for fifth-graders, who took the tests in English, are included in this report (see Appendix A2.1 and A2.2 for more detailed descriptions of outcome measures).
Support for implementation
Saunders (1999) noted that the teachers involved in the study worked with project staff for the full five years during which it was implemented. No further information about teacher training was reported.