Five middle schools in a large urban school district in the eastern United States. The schools are predominantly minority students (approximately 80%) and many of the students were classified as low-income because they receive free or reduced-price lunch (approximately 67%).
The analytic sample for the intervention condition included 1798 students who were 80.2 percent minority and 69.1 percent disadvantaged (received free or reduced price lunch). The analytic sample for the comparison condition included 2188 students who were 82.1 percent minority and 70.8 percent disadvantaged (received free or reduced price lunch).
SWPG Review Notes: There is discrepancy in the reported sample size. On page 155, the sizes of the intervention and comparison groups are reported as 1798 and 2188, respectively, which gives a total sample of 3986. However, on page 150, the sample size is reported as 3916 (intervention group n= 1798, comparison group n= 2118).
The Student Team Reading and Writing (STRW) program program components included: a) cooperative learning classroom processes, b) a literature anthology for high interest reading material, c) explicit instruction in reading comprehension, d) integrated reading, writing, and language arts instruction, and e) a writing process approach to language arts. The STRW program is an integrated approach to reading and writing/language arts for early adolescents. The writing part of the intervention used an iterative writing process approach where students were taught to plan, draft, revise, edit, and finalize their writing. This was combined with language arts instruction and writing concept lessions. The language arts instruction was focused on writing, and instruction in grammar, language expression, and language mechanics related to students writing. The concept lessons involved instruction and models on style and techniques. The reading part of the program consisted of three principal elements: literature-related activities, direct instruction in reaidng comprehension strategies, and selection-related writing. In all of these activities students work in heterogeneous learning teams. All activities followed a regular cycle that involved teacher presentation, team practice, independent practice, peer pre-assessment, and individual accountability. Cooperative learning teams were used as a vehicle to get students to engage in academic interactions that would further their understanding of what had been taught and to take advantage of the strong peer orientation of early adolescents.
SWPG Review Notes: Information about the dosage such as the number of class sessions, time per session, or number of days/weeks/months was not provided. Teachers were trained in the summer, and coaching (observation and feedback on STRW) continued into the school year for 4 months (one semester; p. 152). Thus, it is clear implementation lasted at least one semester, however, it is unclear whether the intervention continued for the remainder of the school year.
The teachers in the comparison schools used traditional instructional methods. Students went to different teachers for reading and English. The reading teachers used a basal reading series and related adjunct materials (e.g., workbooks). The English teachers used an English literature anthology for their literature component and a grammar English textbook for the language arts component. The comparison teachers did not use cooperative learning processes in their instructional activities on a daily basis.
Support for implementation
The teachers in the intervention schools were trained in STRW during their summer vacation for 5 half-day (3 hr) sessions during 1 week. The training consisted of an explanation of the processes and the rationale behind them. During the training, teachers participated in a simulation of major components of the program. The teachers were also given a detailed manual that described each of the components in much the same way they were described by the trainer. During the first 3 months of implementation, the project staff observed and gave feedback to the teachers as they implemented the program. The project staff also met with teachers during and after school, often attending meetings of the reading and language arts department. At these meetings teachers' questions and problems were discussed in order to resolve any problems they were having and to use their feedback to improve the program.