WWC review of this study

Evaluation of curricular approaches to enhance preschool early literacy skills.

Fischel, J. E., Bracken, S. S., Fuchs-Eisenberg, A., Spira, E. G., Katz, S., & Shaller, G. (2007). Journal of Literacy Research, 39(4), 471–501.

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
     examining 
    335
     Students
    , grade
    PK
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: June 2013

Oral language outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III (PPVT-III)

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

Posttest

preschool children;
329 students

85.66

85.36

No

--
Print knowledge outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Woodcock-Johnson Revised (WJ-R): Dictation subtest

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

Posttest

preschool children;
233 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
14
More Outcomes

Get Ready to Read! (GRTR) Screen

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

Posttest

preschool children;
335 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
13

Letter Knowledge subtest

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

Posttest

preschool children;
334 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
13

Woodcock-Johnson Revised (WJ-R): Letter-Word Identification subtest

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

Posttest

preschool children;
284 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
12

Print conventions subtest

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

Posttest

preschool children;
334 students

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
9

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Race
    Black
    42%
    Not specified
    10%
    White
    7%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    41%
    Not Hispanic
    59%
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    New York

Setting

The Let’s Begin with the Letter People® study was conducted with children from six full-day Head Start centers in southeastern New York state (four centers in Year 1; one additional center in Year 2; and one additional center in Year 3) during the 2001–02, 2002–03, and 2003–04 school years. All centers were part of the same Head Start grantee.

Study sample

This randomized controlled study included three groups: Let’s Begin with the Letter People®, the Waterford Early Reading™ Level One, and a comparison group. Preschool classrooms in six centers were randomly assigned to one of the two curricular approaches overlaid onto their standard curriculum (High/Scope® Educational Approach), or to a business-as-usual comparison group that used only the High/Scope® Educational Approach over 3 years of the study. In Year 1 of the study, nine classrooms participated, with three classrooms assigned to each group. In Year 2, 15 classrooms participated in the study, with five in each group. In Year 3, 11 classrooms participated, with four in each intervention group and three in the comparison group. In Years 2 and 3, some teachers from the intervention groups were randomly selected to continue in the study (remaining in that curriculum group), some teachers from the comparison group could opt for random assignment to one of the intervention groups, and some new teachers were randomly assigned to fill out the study groups. Data from all three study years were analyzed together, yielding a sample of 35 study classrooms (12 Let’s Begin with the Letter People® classrooms, 12 Waterford Early Reading™ Level One classrooms, and 11 comparison classrooms). Thus, although the study used a randomized controlled trial design to assign classrooms to intervention or comparison groups, the study included some classrooms randomly assigned with unequal probabilities of assignment not accounted for in the analysis. As a result, the study must demonstrate baseline equivalence between the intervention and comparison group samples of children used in the analysis of outcomes. An author query was conducted to obtain the study data necessary to establish equivalence at baseline for the outcome measures (i.e., unadjusted means and standard deviations of the outcome measures for the intervention and comparison groups). Baseline equivalence was established from the data provided by the study authors. A total of 507 children participated in the study across all three conditions over the 3 years of the study. Children in the study sample had a mean age of 4 years, 4 months at the time of pretest. The sample of children included African-American (42%), Hispanic (41%), multiracial (8%), Caucasian (7%), and other race/ethnicity (2%). Approximately 14% of the sample were Spanish-language dominant at Head Start entry. The evaluation of Let’s Begin with the Letter People® included 21 of the 35 study classrooms, and the analysis sample included 336 children (186 Let’s Begin with the Letter People® and 150 comparison).

Intervention Group

The intervention group classrooms used the Let’s Begin with the Letter People® curriculum overlaid onto the existing High/Scope® curriculum, which all programs had used for at least 10 years before the study. Teachers incorporated the activities, lessons, and materials from Let’s Begin with the Letter People® into their daily classroom instruction, while continuing to follow the High/Scope® curriculum. Let’s Begin with the Letter People® also includes take-home activity sheets designed to be completed with the help of an adult; however, the study did not assess the degree to which parents engaged their children in these activities. A second intervention group was assigned to the Waterford Early Reading™ Level One curriculum; the effects of this intervention on the study sample are not discussed in this report.

Comparison Group

The business-as-usual comparison group classrooms used the standard classroom curriculum (High/Scope®), which prescribes a daily routine (planning time, work time, cleanup time, time for recall, large-group time, small-group time, and outdoor play) and aligns with Head Start’s performance standards, focusing on language, literacy, and other school readiness skills, such as numeracy, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making.

Outcome descriptions

The outcome domains assessed were children’s oral language and print knowledge. Oral language was assessed with the PPVT-III. Print knowledge was assessed with five measures: the WJ-R Letter-Word Identification and Dictation subtests, the Letter Knowledge and Print Conventions subtests of the storybook assessment developed for the Head Start FACES study, and the GRTR screening instrument. Spanish-language dominant children were excluded by the authors from analyses involving the WJ-R Dictation subtest, as these children did not receive the English-language version of this measure at pretest. For the GRTR, Letter Knowledge, and Print Conventions assessments, the pretest administration for Spanish-language dominant children used Spanish instructions, with assessment questions administered in English. Pretests were administered in October/November, and posttests in May/June, corresponding to the Head Start academic year. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.

Support for implementation

Teachers and teacher assistants in the Let’s Begin with the Letter People® group participated in a 3-day curriculum training each August conducted by a professional trainer from Abrams & Company (the developer and distributor of this curriculum). The trainer visited each classroom in the Let’s Begin with the Letter People® condition in the fall and spring of each intervention year and provided individual feedback to teachers. Fidelity was measured during these visits using a checklist to assess the degree of implementation in two domains: classroom organization and teacher behavior. Implementation by all teachers in each year of the study was determined to be accurate and appropriate. Fischel et al. (2007) reported that additional training was offered by the trainer; however, details of the frequency, content, or degree of participation in these trainings were not provided. Teachers and assistants in the Let’s Begin with the Letter People® group and the business-as-usual comparison group participated in a weeklong in-service High/Scope® curriculum training at the beginning of the school year. Support was provided in the classroom by educational and child development specialists throughout the school year.

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations

Reviewed: July 2007

Oral language outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III (PPVT-III)

Waterford Early Reading Level One vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
262 students

86.92

85.72

No

--
More Outcomes

Comprehension

Waterford Early Reading Level One vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
270 students

0.85

0.9

No

--
Print knowledge outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Get Ready to Read! (GRTR) Screen

Waterford Early Reading Level One vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
268 students

12.84

11.59

No

 
 
13
More Outcomes

Print conventions

Waterford Early Reading Level One vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
270 students

0.44

0.27

No

--

Letters Known

Waterford Early Reading Level One vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
270 students

18.03

15.86

No

--

Woodcock-Johnson Revised (WJ-R): Letter-Word Identification subtest

Waterford Early Reading Level One vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
230 students

98.69

96.69

No

--

Woodcock-Johnson Revised (WJ-R): Dictation subtest

Waterford Early Reading Level One vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
182 students

90.37

88.93

No

--

Book knowledge

Waterford Early Reading Level One vs. Business as usual

Posttest

preschool children;
270 students

2.41

2.53

No

--

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Race
    Black
    42%
    Not specified
    10%
    White
    7%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    41%
    Not Hispanic
    59%
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
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    • F
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    New York

Setting

The study took place in 27 unique classrooms across conditions in six Head Start centers (four in year one, one additional center in year two, and one additional center in year three) in southeastern New York. All centers were part of the same Head Start grantee. In each year of the study, children attended full-day preschool, five days a week.

Study sample

Twenty-seven classrooms were randomly assigned to one of three groups (Waterford Early Reading Level One™, Let’s Begin with the Letter People®, or a business-as-usual comparison group) across the three years of the study. In year one of the study, six classrooms were assigned to the Waterford Early Reading Level One™ or business-asusual comparison groups (three Waterford classes and three business-as-usual comparison classes). In year two of the study, eight new classrooms were assigned to these groups (three Waterford classes and five business-as-usual comparison classes) and two randomly selected Waterford classrooms from year one participated again. In year three of the study, five new classrooms were assigned to these groups (two Waterford classes and three business-as-usual comparison classes) and two randomly selected Waterford classrooms from year one participated again. The total study sample across all three groups and all three study years included preschool children with a mean age of 4 years, 4 months at the time of pretest. The children were 42% African-American, 41% Hispanic, 8% multi-racial, 7% Caucasian, and 2% were some other race/ethnicity. About 14% of the total sample was Spanish-language dominant at Head Start entry.

Intervention Group

Intervention group classrooms used the Waterford Early Reading Level One™ curriculum, which was overlaid on the existing High/Scope curriculum. Each child participated in the computerized instruction for 15 minutes a day and the related books and videos were incorporated into small- and large-group time within the High/Scope framework.

Comparison Group

The business-as-usual comparison group classrooms used the standard classroom curriculum (High/Scope), which prescribes a daily routine (planning time, work time, cleanup time, time for recall, large-group time, small-group time, and outdoor play) and aligns well with Head Start’s performance standards, focusing on language, literacy, and other school readiness skills such as numeracy, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Outcome descriptions

The primary outcome domains assessed were children’s oral language and print knowledge. Oral language was assessed with a standardized measure [the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III (PPVT-III)] and a non-standardized measure (Comprehension). Print knowledge was assessed with six measures: Get Ready to Read! Screen (a non-standardized measure), Letters Known (a non-standardized measure), the Letter Word Identification and Dictation subtests from the Woodcock Johnson-Revised (WJ-R; a standardized measure), Book Knowledge (a non-standardized measure), and Print Conventions (a non-standardized measure) (see Appendices A2.1–2.2 for more detailed descriptions of outcome measures).

Support for implementation

Teachers and teacher assistants in the Waterford Early Reading Level One™ group participated in a one-day curriculum training each August conducted by a Pearson Digital Learning trainer. Each teacher could be supervised by the trainer while implementing the curriculum and were taught ways to incorporate the materials (videotapes and books) into the curriculum. The trainer visited each Waterford Early Reading Level One™ classroom mid-year to review summary data to assess classroom progress and provide support and additional training. Teachers and assistants in the Waterford Early Reading Level One™ group and the business-as-usual comparison group participated in a week-long in-service High/Scope curriculum training at the beginning of the school year. Support was provided in the classroom by educational and child development specialists throughout the school year.

 

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