The study includes first-grade children from four schools in a large urban school district in Washington state. Forty-five percent of students in the four schools were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Students from 13 classrooms were in the final analytic sample of 40 students.
After prescreening and pretesting 229 first-graders, the 46 students scoring lowest on the pretests were stratified and randomly assigned to intervention and control groups, with 23 students in each group. At study completion, 20 students remained in each group, for a total of 40 students. Ninety-five percent of the study students were of minority background.
A set of 100, thirty-minute Sound Partners lessons, each including six to eight activities, was administered to students in the intervention group. Some activities were phased out once students mastered the target skills. Other activities were initiated only after most letter sounds had been introduced, and they continued throughout the lessons. Students received reading tutoring after school for 30 minutes per day, four days per week, for 23 weeks. Tutors were provided with lessons to guide the sessions, which focused for specific amounts of time on instruction in letter names and sounds, sound categorization, rhyming exercises, onset-rime segmentation, auditory blending, spelling, writing, and reading from Bob Books®.
The control group students received only the regular reading instruction in their classrooms.
For both pre- and posttests, the authors administered a test of alphabetics, the Wide Range Achievement Test–Revised Reading subtest. Alphabetics achievement was further assessed using the Dolch Word Recognition test, the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery–Revised Word Attack subtest, the Bryant Pseudoword Test, an additional pseudoword list, and the Yopp-Singer Segmentation Task. The authors assessed reading fluency using the primary and first-grade passages of the Analytical Reading Inventory. The authors also used spelling and writing assessments, but they were not included in this review because they are outside the scope of the Beginning Reading review protocol. For a more detailed description of the included outcome measures, see Appendices A2.1 and A2.2.
Support for implementation
Tutors (nonprofessional educators who were community members) were trained as a group two weeks before they began tutoring. Six hours of training were provided at that time and included an introduction to the goals and methods of the tutoring lessons, a presentation and practice role-playing on each lesson component, general information on tutoring, suggestions for behavior management and safety, and record-keeping tasks. Three hours of follow-up training were provided after the tutoring began.