The study took place in 16 secondary schools (eight middle and eight high schools) in the Anaheim Union High School District, an urban school district in California, during the 2012–13 and 2013–14 school years.
Ninety-five teachers participated in the study, with 49 teachers in the Pathway to Academic Success Project group and 46 teachers in the comparison group. Because three Pathway to Academic Success Project teachers had two classrooms participating in the study, a total of 52 Pathway to Academic Success Project classes and 46 comparison group classes were in the study. The main sample consisted of 233 English learner students in grades 7 to 12. For this sample, all students were English learners, 80% of the students were Hispanic, 9% were Native American, 6% were Asian, 4% were White, and less than 1% were Black. Fifty-three percent of students were male, and 90% of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.
The Pathway to Academic Success Project trains teachers to improve the reading and writing abilities of English learners who have an intermediate level of English proficiency by incorporating cognitive strategies into reading and writing instruction. The cognitive strategies include goal setting, tapping prior knowledge, asking questions, making predictions, articulating and revising understanding of text, and evaluating writing. The Pathway to Academic Success Project training lasted 2 years. During each school year, Pathway to Academic Success Project teachers participated in 46 total hours of training, including six full-day sessions (6 hours each) and five after-school sessions (2 hours each). Developers of the Pathway to Academic Success Project led the training with support from district literacy coaches who were experienced Pathway to Academic Success Project teachers. The first two professional development days focused on introducing teachers to the cognitive strategies toolkit and instructional strategies for teaching students to use the toolkit. Teachers received paper- and computer-based materials as models of curriculum and instruction for teaching students the cognitive strategies within the schools’ English language arts curricula. To reinforce the cognitive strategies toolkit, teachers received wall posters with visuals of the cognitive strategies and students received bookmarks with cognitive strategies sentence starters. In the third and fourth professional development days, teachers focused on analyzing students’ performance on the initial writing assessment to determine strengths and areas for growth and received further training on the implementation of cognitive strategies to enhance interpretive reading and analytical writing. In the fifth and sixth professional development days, teachers analyzed students’ post-test writing, reflected on their growth as writers, and made plans for Year 2. Teachers also engaged in professional learning communities within their school to discuss how to implement lessons from the training in their classrooms. Throughout year 1, teachers received coaching support from a retired teacher with previous experience with the Pathway to Academic Success Project. This teacher conducted three informal classroom observations and provided detailed written feedback to teachers. During year 2, a lead English language arts teacher within each school provided coaching support. In addition to classroom observations, coaches attended professional development sessions with teachers from their assigned school and assisted teachers in integrating Pathway to Academic Success Project strategies into their lessons. Pathway to Academic Success Project teachers also received the same 26 hours of professional development that teachers in the comparison condition received.
Comparison group teachers participated in business-as-usual professional development and used the district English language arts textbook and novels for teaching. District professional development during years 1 and 2 included one full-day session led by district curriculum specialists on protocols for reviewing district benchmark assessments. In year 2, district curriculum specialists also led professional development on text complexity.
Support for implementation
Trained observers conducted classroom observations of Pathway to Academic Success Project implementation and comparison classrooms, and rated implementation using the Pathway to Academic Success Project Quality Checklist. Authors found that Pathway to Academic Success Project teachers implemented Pathway to Academic Success Project–specific strategies and activities at a higher rate than comparison group teachers at the final observation in the spring of year 2. Pathway to Academic Success Project teachers and comparison group teachers did not differ in their implementation of these strategies and activities in earlier observations. Similarly, authors found differences in the extent to which students demonstrated effective use of Pathway to Academic Success Project strategies in the final observation, but not in earlier observations.