The 58 schools in this study were recruited from 15 school districts. All of these districts had preschool programs through Part B of IDEA for young children with developmental disabilities, including children with developmental speech and/or language impairment (DSLI). These preschool programs also enrolled children with typical development. The authors did not specify the location or urbanicity of these districts beyond that they were in a large metropolitan area.
All teachers were female and most were white (88%), followed by Hispanic (6%), multiracial (3%), and African-American/Black (2%). One teacher did not provide race/ethnicity information.
All students in the study qualified for IDEA Part B preschool services by state criteria. None had an intellectual disability or other developmental or physical issue outside of developmental speech and/or language impairment (DSLI). Most (162) had a language or speech and language impairment, and 127 had only a speech impairment. Most (202) were boys and most were white (54%), followed by Hispanic (25%), multiracial (12%), Asian (3%), African-American/Black (2%), and American Indian (2%). Students were between 46 and 63 months old. Most (80%) students spoke English and it was the primary language in their homes. For the remaining students, English and another language were spoken at home.
The intervention condition is a whole-class curriculum that embeds incidental and explicit oral language and early literacy teaching practices within planned learning opportunities. TELL includes the use of several practices known to support early literacy and language development, including general supporting strategies, explicit language teaching strategies, alphabet and print concepts, phonological awareness, and emergent writing. The curriculum includes 34 weeks of instruction with 14 thematic units (each lasting 2 weeks), with review weeks conducted every 5 weeks. Prior to review weeks teachers track student progress using curriculum-based measures to determine review week goals and lessons.
In the comparison condition, teachers used whatever curriculum they would have used if they were not participating in the study. Nearly half (47%) reported using no curriculum, 44% reported using either State Standards or "Teaching Strategies Gold," 6% reported using the Creative Curriculum, 2% reported using Splash into PreK, and 1% reported using High Scope.
Support for implementation
Teachers receive one 6-hour training session held before the school year starts. That session is followed by 10 group content training sessions (20 hours total with three in August and September and the rest conducted between October and April); individual in-class coaching (weekly in fall semester and biweekly in spring semester); and weekly reflective discussions. Coaches have master's degrees in early childhood special education or reading and had taught and/or coached teachers in preschool classrooms serving young children with developmental disabilities for over 10 years. The coaching cycle was made up of modeling, observation, feedback, reflection, and planning for the next visit. Coaches also checked on the fidelity of implementation.