WWC review of this study

Is reading important in reading-readiness programs? A randomized field trial with teachers as program implementers.

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., Thompson, A., Otaiba, S. A., Yen, L., Yang, N. J., . . . O’Connor, R. E. (2001). Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(2), 251–267. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ638740

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
    , grade

Reviewed: June 2016

Meets WWC standards with reservations
Study sample characteristics were not reported.

Reviewed: June 2012

Study sample characteristics were not reported.

Reviewed: January 2012

Study sample characteristics were not reported.

Reviewed: August 2007

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Alphabetics outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Rapid letter sound

Ladders to Literacy vs. business as usual


271 students




More Outcomes

Woodcock Johnson (WJ): Word Attack subtest

Ladders to Literacy vs. business as usual


271 students





Woodcock Johnson (WJ): Word Identification subtest

Ladders to Literacy vs. business as usual


271 students





Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • 3% English language learners

  • Female: 45%
    Male: 55%
  • Race
    Not specified

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The study took place in four Title I and four non-Title I schools in the Nashville public school system.

Study sample

Thirty-three teachers were stratified and then randomly assigned to three conditions: Ladders to Literacy, Ladders to Literacy plus Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS), and a comparison condition. Students were selected to participate based on the Rapid Letter Naming test and student names were presented to teachers for their review and adjustment. For rating purposes, the WWC focused on the 11 teachers with 136 students that were in the Ladders to Literacy treatment group and 11 teachers with 135 students that were in the comparison group. Students in both conditions were also compared longitudinally and in terms of varying levels of reading performance (high, medium, and low) in fall of first grade.

Intervention Group

Children in the intervention classes received their typical pre-reading instruction and were given 15 Ladders to Literacy activities for a maximum of 45 minutes a week for twenty weeks. These activities included word and syllable awareness, rhyming, first sound isolation, onset-rhyme blending, sound segmentation, journal writing, “letter sound of the week,” “morning message,” nursery rhymes and poems, and shared storybook reading. Only three of the activities presented students with printed letters. Students in the Ladders to Literacy plus PALS classes participated in a 20-week phonological awareness training and beginning decoding curriculum. The PALS component, which was implemented for 16 weeks, required children to work in pairs with peers of their own ages. The PALS activities focused on the correct sounds of letters and required children to read aloud sight words, decodable words, and simple sentences.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison classes received their regular whole-class reading instruction. Nearly two-thirds of teachers used the school district’s formally adopted text: the Harcourt-Brace Treasury of Literature: First Street Collection for Kindergarten. A majority of the teachers used First Street’s Big Books, and about half of the teachers reported using High Hat. A majority of comparison teachers taught alphabet letter naming.

Outcome descriptions

For both pretest and posttest, the authors administered two subtests of the Woodcock Reading Mastery test (Word Identification and Word Attack), a rapid letter sound test, and a segmentation task. At posttest, the authors also administered a blending task. All these tests were also used during follow-up testing which occurred in the fall of first grade. The Spelling subtest of the Wechsler Individual Achievement test was also used in the study but is not included because it is outside the scope of this Beginning Reading review. (See Appendix A2.1–2.3 for more detailed descriptions of outcome measures.)

Support for implementation

Intervention teachers attended a full-day workshop that included discussion of phonological awareness tasks and description of the 15 Ladders to Literacy activities that teachers were asked to implement. Ladders to Literacy and PALS teachers attended an additional half-day workshop to prepare their students in PALS.


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