The study took place in three high schools and four middle schools in California, Colorado, and Illinois in the 2006–07 school year.
The authors used a cluster randomized controlled trial design to study the effects of the Prentice Hall Literature: Penguin Edition© curriculum on English language arts achievement for students in grades 7 and 9. Researchers contacted schools to participate in the study that were socioeconomically diverse, had low student mobility rates, were willing to randomly assign teachers to study groups, and had enrollments of at least 750 students or had at least four teachers with multiple sections of college-preparatory English language arts. From the contacted schools, the study recruited seven schools that agreed to participate. In summer 2006, the authors randomly assigned within schools 31 teachers of 1,922 students to conditions, with 15 teachers in the intervention group and 16 teachers in the comparison group. Of those randomly assigned, 13 teachers (six intervention and seven comparison) and 867 students (463 intervention and 404 comparison) were in grade 7, and 18 teachers (nine per condition) and 1,055 students (553 intervention and 502 comparison) were in grade 9.
The WWC considers random assignment jeopardized, however, for two reasons. First, the analysis excluded data on students who changed study conditions after random assignment (from intervention to comparison or vice versa). Second, the analysis included data on students who were added to study classroom rosters after random assignment (by the beginning of fall 2006). Across the seventh- and ninth-grade analytic samples, students were 47% male, 45% non-Latino White, 24% Latino, 10% African American, 4% Asian, and 16% multi-ethnic or other race or ethnicity. About 92% of students spoke English as their primary language, while the remainder spoke another language. The study did not report characteristics of each of the analytic samples. The analytic sample included 1,627 students: 890 students were in the Pearson Literature group (414 students in grade 7 and 476 students in grade 9), and 737 students were in the comparison group (312 students in grade 7 and 425 students in grade 9).
Students in intervention classrooms received English language arts instruction using Prentice Hall Literature: Penguin Edition© during the 2006–07 school year. The study provided intervention classrooms with teacher and student textbooks and ancillary materials, such as student notebooks and workbooks, strategy kits, and teaching resource books.
The intervention was delivered over, on average, a 32-week school year, but not all weeks could be used to implement the curriculum because of standardized testing and other schools events. On average, seventh-grade teachers covered nine out of the 12 possible sections within a unit and approximately five of the six possible units. Unlike seventh-grade teachers, ninth-grade teachers varied substantially in intervention implementation. In grade 9, California teachers covered, on average, nearly six sections within a unit, while teachers from the other states covered nine sections within a unit. Similar to grade 7, grade 9 teachers covered, on average, nearly five of the six possible units.
Teachers in the comparison group used six different curricula across the seven schools: two schools used an earlier (2002) edition of a Prentice Hall Literature textbook, while five schools used other textbooks published between 1985 and 2002. All but one of these textbooks provided additional elements beyond reading selections and related activities (e.g., discussion questions or vocabulary), such as writing exercises and standardized test practice. The oldest textbook (published in 1985) was unique in its predominant focus on reading selections and related activities with almost no other elements.
All comparison teachers supplemented their textbooks with outside reading selections, such as novels, poetries, biographies, or articles and handouts, with two comparison teachers using more outside reading selections than textbook selections. Teachers in the comparison condition differentiated instruction through various techniques such as adapting assignments or through mixed-ability group work, but only sometimes using the textbook to differentiate instruction.
Support for implementation
Intervention teachers participated in a 3–4 hour training administered by a Prentice Hall consultant and or the study authors. The consultant/study authors reviewed the curriculum, implementation guidelines, and all ancillary materials. After teachers began using the products, a consultant returned to each site to hold a question and answer session.