The study took place in eight elementary schools in one urban district and nine elementary schools in two "near urban" districts. The districts were all located in the southwestern United States.
The mean age of the analytic sample was 9.78 years. Participants were 44.72% female, and 95.07% qualified for free or reduced lunch. About 12.78% of the sample had been previously identified as special education status. The racial and ethnic composition of the sample was 69.53% Hispanic, 21.62% African-American, 7.62% White, and 1.23% other race.
The study examined the effectiveness of a reading intervention for students struggling with reading. The research team hired 19 tutors to administer the intervention to students in groups of 4 to 5, for approximately 35 minutes, 5 times a week, over 16 weeks. On average, students in the intervention group received between 23.4 to 26.5 hours of the intervention. Lessons were organized into 2-week units based on a theme aligned to what was being taught in the students’ social studies classes. The intervention lessons consisted of three components: 1. Word and concept building (3 to 10 minutes), 2. Text reading of a narrative or expository passage (15 to 20 minutes), and 3. Word study (6 to 10 minutes). Vocabulary instruction focused on six vocabulary words per unit, each related to the unit’s theme. Questions encouraged the application of each word as it related to the students’ texts and personal lives. Words were reviewed in a 3-day pattern, and on day 10, students completed a maze activity as a curriculum-based measure of understanding. Text-based reading instruction focused on both stretch and fluency texts. Stretch text instruction occurred during lessons 4-7 and had students reading grade-level (not reading level) texts and pause at stopping points to explain the meaning of the text in their own words. Tutors also asked questions about the text. Fluency text instruction occurred during lessons 1-3 and 8-9. Fluency texts were from the QuickReads program. Students were asked to skim the text and ask clarifying questions before re-reading to tell what the passage was about. Students moved from choral readings to independent reading with or without a partner. After completing fluency activities, students participated in a “Does it Make Sense?” activity, in which students were asked to read a sentence or paragraph to determine if it made sense, syntactically and semantically. On day 10, students re-read passages from the unit to check for understanding. The word study component of the intervention addressed phonics skills and multisyllabic words. Assigned lists were based on the individual needs of the student and were updated according to each students’ progress. Student progress was monitored using the 4th-grade level passages from AIMSWeb, Reading Curriculum-based Measurement (CBM-R), and the Test of Silent Reading Efficiency and Comprehension (TOSREC).
Students in the comparison condition received reading instruction from school personnel. Instruction provided included: test preparation, basic word reading interventions, fluency interventions, inclusion support, and response to intervention/resource instruction. School-provided interventions were typically administered in groups that ranged from 1 to 15 students for 2 to 5 days per week, and in 10- to 60-minute sessions.
Support for implementation
Tutors participated in 10 hours of training that covered the intervention implementation, strategies for engaging students, features of effective instruction, and behavior management. This was followed by 8 additional hours of training that was provided throughout the year. Tutors participated in staff meetings on a biweekly basis. They also received on-site feedback and coaching about once every 2-3 weeks.