The study took place in 11 schools in 4 districts in upstate New York. The schools ranged from poor and urban to middle-class and suburban. The intervention was a one-on-one tutoring program that supplemented regular classroom instruction.
Students in the study were selected based on having poor reading performance. The students in the intervention group also participated in a neurobiology experiment involving MRI scans, so the sample was further limited to students whose parents gave permission for that study, and who met various other requirements (right handed, no medical appliances or metal objects such as dental work, no hearing loss, articulation problems, or other conditions). Demographic information is not provided on the 12 certified teachers who implemented the intervention.
The gender composition of the study sample is as follows: of the 37 treatment subjects, 22 were male and 15 were female and of the 32 comparison subjects, 20 were male and 12 were female.
The race and ethnicity composition of the study sample (as identified by parents) is as follows: of the 37 treatment subjects, 28 were White, 6 were Black American, 1 was Hispanic, and 2 were Other and of the 32 treatment subjects, 27 were White, 4 were Black American, 1 was Other.
The intervention consisted of 50 minute one-on-one tutoring sessions administered 5 days per week from the end of September to the beginning of June. The tutoring program was adapted from an earlier version (Blachman 1987; Blackman, Tangel, Ball, Black, and McGraw 1999). Each lesson consisted of five steps:
(1) Review sound-symbol associations from previous lessons and introduce new sounds.
(2) Children practice blending, segmenting, and replacing phonemes in words using cards with letters and letter clusters.
(3) Children practice reading words written on cards, including both phonetically regular words and phonetically irregular words written in a different color.
(4) Children practice reading text out loud.
(5) Children write words and sentences that the tutor dictates.
- The intervention supplemented regular reading instruction and replaced other remedial reading instruction that the school had, if any. The regular reading program varied across schools, but most teachers described their programs as literature-based with some emphasis on phonics.
- The intervention does not contain a home component.
- 12 certified teachers implemented the intervention. The study does not indicate whether these teachers also taught in the same schools, although two of the teachers enrolled in graduate programs at the time.
- A list of materials is not provided, but the intervention does use cards with letters, combinations of letters, or words, as well as books.
- The intervention is not scripted.
- While there is no indication of a formal assessment, tutors customized each lesson based on the child's progress and on feedback provided to the tutors based on observations from the study's authors.
The treatment group also participated in a neurobiology study in which they received MRI brain scans. This required three out-of-state trips lasting up to three days each. Since this additional time commitment is likely greater than a standard implementation of the intervention would require, this could be considered a part of the intervention for the purposes of this study.
Children in the comparison group continued with their regular classroom instruction and any remedial reading instruction that the school offered. 23 of the 31 control children received some type of remedial reading instruction, which took place in groups of 2 to 8 outside of the regular classroom. The average session lasted 41 minutes and met 3 to 5 times per week.
Support for implementation
Tutors completed 15 training sessions totaling 45 hours before the intervention began, directed by a colleague of the authors. Tutors also had 8 additional 2-hour training sessions throughout the course of the intervention, led by two of the authors.