WWC review of this study

An evaluation of curriculum, setting, and mentoring on the performance of children enrolled in pre-kindergarten [Let's Begin with the Letter People vs. business as usual]

Assel, M. A., Landry, S. H., Swank, P. R., & Gunnewig, S. (2007). Reading and Writing, 20(5), 463–494. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ774756

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    289
     Students
    , grade
    PK

Reviewed: May 2022

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Language outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Woodcock-Johnson test of academic achievement (WJ-3) Sound Awareness/Rhyming subtest

Let's Begin with the Letter People® vs. Business as usual

0 Days

LBN vs. Control;
287 students

4.33

3.20

No

--
More Outcomes

Developing Skills Checklist (DSC)

Let's Begin with the Letter People® vs. Business as usual

0 Days

LBN;
287 students

9.42

9.07

No

--

Pre-school language scale-IV edition—auditory comprehension subscale (PLS)

Let's Begin with the Letter People® vs. Business as usual

0 Days

LBN vs. Control;
289 students

47.57

47.54

No

--

Woodcock-Johnson test of academic achievement (WJ-3) Letter Identification

Let's Begin with the Letter People® vs. Business as usual

0 Days

LBN vs. Control;
285 students

9.90

9.99

No

--

Expressive Vocabulary Test

Let's Begin with the Letter People® vs. Business as usual

0 Days

LBN vs. Control;
289 students

41.37

43.04

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


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    Texas

Setting

The study took place in Houston, Texas. Classrooms were located in Free Standing Head Start centers, Public Schools with Universal Pre-K and Public Schools with Title 1 Designation.

Intervention Group

Let's Begin with Letter People is comprised of 26 thematic units with the intention that one unit is taught each week. However, the authors did not explicitly quantify how implementation occurred in the classrooms in this study. Each of the 26 weekly units contain activities across the following seven domains: Oral Language/Listening; Alphabetic/Story Knowledge/Writing; Science/Math; Personal/Social Development; Large/Small Motor Skills; Art/Music; Reach the Home. For each unit/week, the teacher can choose from a menu of daily activities that fall within the seven domains. The activities include whole class, small group and independent work opportunities.

Comparison Group

The main characteristic of control classrooms at both sites (Head Start and the School District) was the lack of a specified curriculum that included a scope and sequence of activities. Administrators at the school district reported that the control classrooms used a variety of classroom materials (e.g., children’s literature from multiple publishers and materials that the district had developed over the course of several years). Personnel from the school district reported that materials provided to teachers in the control classrooms followed the state guidelines for prekindergarten classrooms and included attention to language and literacy. The control classrooms in the Head Start site were much less systematic in terms of materials used. Some classrooms used pieces of outdated curriculum. Additionally, many of teachers of the control classrooms utilized worksheets (derived from different sources) and other materials that were developed within the particular centers. Similar to the control classrooms within the school district, Head Start control classrooms did not utilize a curriculum with a specified scope and sequence.

Support for implementation

Teachers received 4 days of teacher training specific to the curricula and were provided a complete set of materials for Let’s Begin with the Letter People.

Reviewed: June 2013

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Print knowledge outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ-III): Letter-Word Identification subtest

Doors to Discovery vs. Business as Usual

Posttest

Preschool children;
365 students

11.01

9.99

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 49%
    Male: 51%
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    Texas
  • Race
    Black
    21%
    Other or unknown
    8%
    White
    29%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    42%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    58%

Setting

The study was conducted with children from 20 full-day preschools (54 classrooms: 27 Doors to Discovery™ and 27 comparison) selected from Head Start and public preschool programs in the greater Houston, Texas area.

Study sample

This randomized controlled study, conducted during the 2003–04 school year, included three groups: Doors to Discovery™, Let’s Begin with the Letter People®, and a comparison group. Study authors recruited 32 Title I and non-Title I (universal) preschools and Head Start centers that included a total of 79 classrooms. Within each of the three school types (Title I, non-Title I, and Head Start), schools were randomly assigned to either the Doors to Discovery™ intervention group, the Let’s Begin with the Letter People® intervention group, or a comparison group, with all classrooms within a preschool being assigned to the same intervention condition. Fourteen schools (27 classrooms) in the study were assigned to implement the Doors to Discovery™ curriculum, 12 schools (25 classrooms) implemented Let’s Begin with the Letter People®, and six schools (27 classrooms) were assigned to the comparison condition. In a second stage of random assignment, those schools assigned to Doors to Discovery™ and Let’s Begin with the Letter People® were randomly assigned (within each curriculum) to two groups: one that received mentoring, and one that did not receive mentoring. The number of children at random assignment is not provided in the article or in author queries. However, the authors indicated that the consent rate was 65% in the intervention classrooms and 55% in the comparison classrooms. The authors also noted that at random assignment, 215 study children were in intervention group classrooms, and 203 study children were in comparison classrooms. Using the consent rate and the number of study children, we estimate that the sample of children totaled 729: 324 in intervention classrooms and 405 in comparison classrooms. At baseline, 51% of children in the Head Start classrooms were Hispanic, and 38% were African American; in the Title I classrooms, 53% of children were Hispanic, and 27% were Caucasian; and in the non-Title I programs, 71% of children were Caucasian, and 15% were categorized as Other. Pretest data were collected prior to the implementation of the curriculum, and posttest data were collected at the end of the school year. The analysis sample for the Doors to Discovery™ study included 365 children (183 Doors to Discovery™ and 182 comparison).Although the Assel et al. (2007) study used a randomized controlled trial design to assign schools to intervention or comparison conditions, the study had high attrition at the child level and must demonstrate baseline equivalence between the intervention and comparison group sample of children used in the analyses of outcomes. An author query was conducted to obtain the study data necessary to establish equivalence at baseline (i.e., unadjusted means and standard deviations of the outcome measures for the intervention and comparison groups). Baseline equivalence was established for outcomes in the print knowledge domain but not for the oral language or phonological processing domains. The study also discusses differences in child outcomes for the groups that received mentoring compared with those that did not, but since the estimated differences are not presented in the paper, we do not present these analyses in this intervention report.

Intervention Group

Intervention group teachers implemented Doors to Discovery™. Eight thematic units cover topics such as nature, friendship, communities, society, and health and present rich information. The teacher guide offers open-ended statements and questions to promote discussion. Fidelity to the curriculum was measured three times during the school year. At the first evaluation, 29% of teachers scored at high levels for curriculum fidelity (4 or 5 on a 5-point scale). By mid-year, 57% of teachers received high scores for curriculum fidelity. A second intervention group was assigned to the Let’s Begin with the Letter People® curriculum; the effects of this intervention on the study sample are not discussed in this report.

Comparison Group

Comparison group teachers used nonspecific curricula, which included a variety of curriculum materials that followed state guidelines for public preschool programs. Head Start comparison classrooms did not use a curriculum with a specified scope or sequence.

Outcome descriptions

Print knowledge was assessed with the WJ-III Letter-Word Identification subtest. For a more detailed description of this outcome measure, see Appendix B. In addition, the study authors assessed children in the oral language and phonological processing domains. Oral language was assessed with the Preschool Language Scale, Fourth Edition (PLS-4) Auditory Comprehension Subscale and the Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT). Phonological processing was assessed with the Developing Skill Checklist (DSC) and the Rhyming section from the WJ-III Sound Awareness subtest. The authors did not establish baseline equivalence on the outcomes in these domains.

Support for implementation

Intervention teachers were trained on Doors to Discovery™ by the curriculum’s publishing company during a 4-day workshop. Training took place in small groups and included instruction in all content areas. The mentors were senior-level trainers of the curriculum. Teachers in the mentoring condition received help from one of three senior-level trainers of the curriculum who served as mentors. Mentors met with teachers two times a month for about one and a half hours, providing assistance in areas of lesson planning, curriculum components, and fidelity, among other topics. Mentors also identified and discussed areas of improvement for individual teachers. All teachers, regardless of mentoring condition, received three feedback sessions over the course of the school year surrounding their implementation of the intervention.

Reviewed: June 2013

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Oral language outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Preschool Language Scale Fourth Edition (PLS-4): Auditory Comprehension subscale

Let's Begin with the Letter People® vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
366 students

N/A

N/A

No

--
More Outcomes

Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT)

Let's Begin with the Letter People® vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
366 students

N/A

N/A

No

--
Print knowledge outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ-III): Letter-Word Identification subtest

Let's Begin with the Letter People® vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
362 students

N/A

N/A

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
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    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    Texas
  • Race
    Black
    21%
    Other or unknown
    8%
    White
    29%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic    
    42%
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
    58%

Setting

The Let’s Begin with the Letter People® study was conducted with children from 18 fullday preschools (52 classrooms: 25 Let’s Begin with the Letter People® and 27 comparison) selected from Head Start and public preschool programs in the greater Houston, Texas area.

Study sample

This randomized controlled study, conducted during the 2003–04 school year, included three groups: Let’s Begin with the Letter People®, Doors to Discovery™, and a comparison group. Study authors recruited 32 Title I and non-Title I (universal) preschools and Head Start centers that included a total of 79 classrooms. Within each of the three school types (Title I, non-Title I, and Head Start), schools were randomly assigned to either the Let’s Begin with the Letter People ® intervention group, the Doors to Discovery™ intervention group, or a comparison group, with all classrooms within a preschool being assigned to the same intervention condition. Twelve schools in the study (25 classrooms) implemented Let’s Begin with the Letter People®, 14 schools (27 classrooms) were assigned to implement the Doors to Discovery™ curriculum, and six schools (27 classrooms) were assigned to the comparison condition. In a second stage of random assignment, those schools assigned to Let’s Begin with the Letter People® and Doors to Discovery™ were randomly assigned (within each curriculum) to two groups: one that received mentoring and one that did not receive mentoring. The number of children in the study classrooms at random assignment was not provided in the article or in author queries. However, the authors indicated that the consent rate was 65% in the intervention classrooms and 55% in the comparison classrooms. The authors also noted that at random assignment, 215 study children were in intervention group classrooms and 203 study children were in comparison classrooms. Using the consent rate and the number of study children, the WWC estimates that the total sample of children included 705, with 300 in intervention classrooms and 405 in comparison classrooms. At baseline, 51% of children in the Head Start classrooms were Hispanic and 38% were African American; in the Title I classrooms, 53% of the children were Hispanic and 27% were Caucasian; and in the non-Title I classrooms, 71% of the children were Caucasian and 15% were classified as Other. Pretest data were collected prior to the implementation of the curriculum, and posttest data were collected at the end of the school year. The analysis sample for the Let’s Begin with the Letter People® study included 366 children (182 Let’s Begin with the Letter People® and 184 comparison). Although the Assel et al. (2007) study used a randomized controlled trial design to assign schools to intervention or comparison conditions, the study had high attrition at the child level and must demonstrate baseline equivalence between the intervention and comparison group samples of children used in the analyses of outcomes. An author query was conducted to obtain the study data necessary to establish equivalence at baseline (i.e., unadjusted means and standard deviations of the outcome measures for the intervention and comparison groups). Baseline equivalence was established for outcomes in the oral language and print knowledge domains but not for the phonological processing domain. The study also discusses differences in child outcomes for the groups that received mentoring compared with those that did not, but since the estimated differences are not presented in the paper, we do not present these analyses in this intervention report.

Intervention Group

Intervention group teachers implemented Let’s Begin with the Letter People®. The curriculum is organized into 26 thematic units, with teachers typically devoting at least one week for each unit. Fidelity to the curriculum was measured three times during the school year. At the first evaluation, 30% of teachers scored at high levels for curriculum fidelity (4 or 5 on a 5-point scale). By mid-year, 72% of teachers received high scores for curriculum fidelity. A second intervention group was assigned to the Doors to Discovery™ curriculum; the effects of this intervention on the study sample are not discussed in this report.

Comparison Group

Comparison group teachers used nonspecific curricula, which included a variety of curriculum materials that followed state guidelines for public preschool programs. Head Start comparison classrooms did not use a curriculum with a specified scope or sequence.

Outcome descriptions

Outcome domains that met WWC evidence standards with reservations include oral language and print knowledge. Oral language was assessed with the PLS-4 Auditory Comprehension Subscale and EVT. Print knowledge was assessed with the WJ-III Letter-Word Identification subtest. For a more detailed description of the outcome measures presented in this intervention report, see Appendix B. In addition, the study authors assessed children in the phonological processing domain. Phonological processing was assessed with the Developing Skill Checklist (DSC) and the Rhyming section from the WJ-III Sound Awareness subtest. Children were assessed at the beginning and end of the school year.

Support for implementation

Intervention teachers were trained on Let’s Begin with the Letter People® by the curriculum’s publishing company during a 4-day workshop. Training took place in small groups and included instruction in all content areas. The mentors were senior-level trainers of the curriculum. Teachers in the mentoring condition received help from one of three senior-level trainers of the curriculum who served as mentors. Mentors met with teachers two times a month for about 1.5 hours, providing assistance in areas of lesson planning, curriculum components, and fidelity, among other topics. Mentors also identified and discussed areas of improvement for individual teachers. All teachers, regardless of mentoring condition, received three feedback sessions over the course of the school year, surrounding their implementation of the intervention.

 

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