WWC review of this study

Improving literacy achievement for English learners in transitional bilingual programs.

Saunders, W. M. (1999). Educational Research and Evaluation, 5(4), 345-381. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ602669

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
     examining 
    84
     Students
    , grades
    2-5
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: November 2016

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

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS): Reading subtest

Transitional Bilingual Programs vs. Business as usual

5 Years

Full sample;
84 students

41.9

34.51

Yes

 
 
23
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS): Reading subtest

Transitional Bilingual Programs vs. Business as usual

5 Years

Transition-5 Subgroup (Standardized test completed in Spanish);
28 students

44.56

36.29

No

 
 
28

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS): Reading subtest

Transitional Bilingual Programs vs. Business as usual

5 Years

Transition-4 Subgroup (Standardized test completed in English);
56 students

40.56

33.62

Yes

 
 
21

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • 100% English language learners
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    California

Setting

This study took place in a public elementary school in southern California. Five schools participated in the transitional bilingual program that started with 2nd and 3rd grade as pre-transitional grades, 4th grade as the transitional grade, and 5th grade as a second transitional grade if needed. Five comparison schools were chosen from neighboring schools in the area. All of the students were enrolled at the same elementary school throughout the study, spoke Spanish at home, and enrolled in a transitional bilingual program in school.

Study sample

Program and non-program schools have the following characteristics: mean enrollment is 880 students (range: 478-1295); 96% of the student body is Latino or Hispanic (range: 93-99%); 74% of the students are limited English proficient (range: 65-85%); 95% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch (range: 80-100%). Grade 2 Spanish reading median percentiles for the year prior to the project ranged from 29th to the 48th percentile, with 8 out of 10 between 44th and 48th percentile.

Intervention Group

This study examined the effects of a multi-year transitional bilingual program for Spanish-speaking students in the 2nd through 5th grades. This study's primary goal was to improve student literacy - in English and Spanish. All Spanish speaking limited English proficiency students enrolled in the program received language arts and content instruction in their native language with 20-30 minutes daily of English language development instruction. The goal of the program was to redesignate students as fluent English proficient when they demonstrate grade level reading, writing, and oral language skills on standardized English language achievement tests.

Comparison Group

Non-project students participated in the transitional 3-6 month bilingual program that is business as usual for the school district.

Support for implementation

No support for implementation was provided in the study.

At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: October 2006

English language development outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Writing

Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs vs. Business as usual

Posttest

Grade 5;
84 students

2.87

2.37

Yes

 
 
25
More Outcomes

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS): Language subtest

Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs vs. Business as usual

Posttest

Grade 5;
84 students

45.38

37.8

Yes

 
 
21
Reading achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Performance assessment

Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs vs. Business as usual

Posttest

Grade 5;
84 students

2.79

2.25

Yes

 
 
33
More Outcomes

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS): Reading subtest

Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs vs. Business as usual

Posttest

Grade 5;
84 students

41.9

34.51

Yes

 
 
24

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • 100% English language learners

  • 95% Free or reduced price lunch
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    90%
    Not Hispanic
    10%
    • B
    • A
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    • y

    California

Setting

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.

Study sample

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.

Intervention Group

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.

Comparison Group

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.

Outcome descriptions

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.

 

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