English language learners who participated in the study attended seven elementary schools in the El Paso, Texas school district. Overall, 79% of students in the district were
Hispanic and 27% had limited English proficiency. The schools selected for inclusion in the study had the highest rates of poverty and the lowest levels of student achievement
among the schools in the district with Spanish-dominant English language learners.
The study included 222 Spanish-speaking English language learners in the second (n = 120) and third (n = 102) grades. The students’ primary home language was Spanish.
A total of 85 third-grade students (52 in the treatment group, 33 in the comparison group) were posttested in English in reading and language. Three intervention and four
comparison schools participated in the two-year study
BCIRC students were assigned to cooperative learning teams consisting of four heterogeneously grouped students (that is, groups contained a mix of high, medium, and
low achieving students). BCIRC attempts to promote student discussion and dialogue during cooperative learning activities designed to help students develop critical
thinking and reading comprehension skills as well as the overall ability to use academic English. Activities include partner reading, recognition of key components of a story,
vocabulary development, creative writing, and tasks designed to promote reading comprehension. Teachers model reading strategies—such as making and confirming a
before, during, and after reading. Cooperative groups then apply the demonstrated strategy while attempting to comprehend stories selected from their classroom
text. Students were taught for two hours each day. One half-hour of the two-hour instruction included English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction for both intervention
and comparison groups.
Stories for both intervention and comparison classrooms were selected from the Macmillan Campanitas de Oro Spanish basal reading series. By the middle of the second
grade, students alternated every two weeks between the Spanish basal and the Macmillan Transitional Reading Program basal series in English.
The comparison group included four schools matched to the three intervention schools on demographic characteristics and academic ranking within the district. Further,
individual classes within the intervention schools were matched with classes in the comparison schools on mean pretest scores. Comparison group students used the Macmillan
Campanitas de Oro Spanish basal reading series and began to alternate between the Spanish basal and the Macmillan Transitional Reading Program basal series in English each
day. Students received the same amount of instruction (two hours, including one half-hour of ESL instruction) but used the teachers’ editions of the McMillan reading series for
guidance rather than the BCIRC approach. Overall, teachers in the comparison condition were trained in and used round-robin oral reading and workbook practice activities.
The effects of the intervention on English language learner outcomes were assessed using the Norm-Referenced Assessment Program for Texas (NAPT). Although the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) was used in the study to assess reading outcomes, results are not reported here because the measure was administered in Spanish. (See Appendices A2.1 and A2.2 for a more detailed description of the outcome measures.)
Support for implementation
Teachers implementing the intervention received extensive staff development, but more specific information about the training was not provided. Teachers in comparison schools received training related to cooperative learning.