Developing an Early Literacy Assessment for Spanish-Speaking Children in Preschool: PALS español PreK
Co-Principal Investigators: Karen Ford, Francis Huang, and Patrick Meyer
Purpose: The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening in Spanish (PALS español) is an assessment administered in Spanish each fall and spring to Spanish-speaking students in grades K–3 to determine whether they are making adequate progress in learning to read and also to provide instructionally useful diagnostic information to teachers. This assessment, developed through another IES grant (Designing Assessment to Enhance English Literacy Development Among Spanish-Speaking Children in Grades K–3), gives teachers the information they need to inform their literacy instruction, both in English and in Spanish. The purpose of this project is to produce a valid and reliable version of PALS español for use with 3- and 4-year-old preschool children (PALS español PreK). This assessment, together with the accompanying instructional support that will be provided, will give teachers the tools they need to design effective, developmentally appropriate emergent literacy instruction for their Spanish-speaking English language learners.
Project Activities: In this 4-year measurement project, researchers will work to ensure that PALS español PreK is free of cultural and linguistic bias and that it provides a reliable measure of children's progress toward developing the early literacy skills that have been shown to contribute to later reading achievement, specifically alphabet knowledge, knowledge about print concepts, phonological sensitivity, phonological memory, and emergent writing skills. In order to reach the project goals, researchers will (a) develop a Spanish version of the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening for use with children in preschool; (b) conduct pilot and field tests to obtain empirical evidence of its reliability and validity; (c) create a vertical scale that aligns PALS español PreK with existing PALS español instruments; and (d) design instructional guides to demonstrate how information gathered using this assessment can inform early literacy instruction in both English and Spanish.
Products: The products for this project will be a fully developed and validated early literacy assessment that will give Spanish-speaking preschool children access to the same research-based, developmentally appropriate early literacy assessment already available to their English-speaking peers. Peer-reviewed publications will also be produced.
Setting: Field testing will take place in public prekindergarten, Head Start, and child care programs located in Virginia, Ohio, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, and Washington, DC. Pilot sites will include urban, suburban, and rural school settings.
Sample: The participants will include approximately 2,000 3- and 4-year-old Spanish-speaking children who are being instructed in dual language, bilingual, Spanish immersion, and English-only preschool environments. Each distinct region of origin (e.g., Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean) will be represented in the sample in a similar proportion to their representation in the U.S. population as a whole. Socioeconomic status will vary and is expected to be normally distributed for this population.
Assessment: The PALS español PreK measure will include scale items intended to assess children's alphabet knowledge, knowledge about print concepts, phonological sensitivity, phonological memory, and emergent writing skills. At the end of the study, the fully developed PALS español PreK will include multiple tasks. Children will complete three tasks to assess phonological sensitivity (Phonological Sensitivity); clap syllables in spoken words (Syllable Clapping Task); match pictures based on phonological attributes (Rhyme Awareness task); isolate the beginning sound of spoken words following extensive modeling by the teacher (Beginning Sound Awareness task); repeat a two-line Spanish nursery rhyme (Phonological Memory); complete a set of upper case letter recognition and lower case letter recognition tasks (Alphabet Knowledge); draw a picture of him/herself and write his/her name (Name Writing); and have a teacher share a book with a child and ask him or her to point to the book title, individual letters, and words, and measure the child's understanding of print and book orientation (Print and Word Awareness).
Research Design and Methods: Item pools will be developed and piloted for each task.
In Year 1, researchers will expand the item pool for PALS español PreK tasks; submit all tasks and items for review to the Advisory Board; make any necessary item or task revisions, based on the Advisory Board's recommendations; and conduct initial pilot tests of all tasks and items. They will then conduct psychometric analyses to evaluate item quality and refine the initial pool of test items. In Year 2, PALS español PreK will be field tested with 800 preschool children (ages 3 and 4) who speak Spanish as their first language or who are being instructed in Spanish in dual language or Spanish immersion programs. The researchers will conduct data analyses to evaluate the test items and select test items for the Year 3 field test. In Year 3, the final version of PALS español PreK, including any Year 2 revisions, will be field tested with 2,000 Spanish-speaking 3- and 4-year-old children. The researchers will collect data to examine the concurrent and predictive validity of the PALS español PreK. Data analyses will be conducted to examine item quality and obtain parameter estimates for vertical scaling. In Year 4, the researchers will conduct a validity study and prepare web-based documentation for teachers and other school personnel. They will finalize the administration and scoring guidelines for PALS español PreK and establish developmental ranges for each task. The research team will track children across all pilot and field testing phases of data collection.
Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.
Key Measures: For the purpose of vertical scaling, a set of items from PALS español K will be embedded in PALS español PreK. These items will be selected to represent all subdomains that are common to both measures, and they will cover a wide range of difficulty. For the validity study, the Get Ready to Read! and ˇPrepárate! a leer measures will be administered to participating children.
Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use a range of statistical/psychometric analyses. A psychometric analysis will be conducted in the spring and summer of each year. Psychometric analysis will involve (a) classical item analysis, (b) item response theory analysis, (c) reliability and validity studies, and (d) vertical scaling. These methods allow for statistical evaluation of test items, inform any revisions needed to the measure, produce evidence of score reliability and validity, and place the two PALS español measures (PreK and K) on the same scale. In Year 1, the research team will conduct IRT analysis of the PALS español PreK measure to evaluate item quality and refine the pool of test items. In Years 2 and 3, IRT analysis and factor analysis will continue in the Spring and Summer. In addition, in Year 3, the research team will use multidimensional item response theory and a common item design to create a vertical scale across PreK and K. The vertical scale will allow teachers to track student growth trajectories and monitor performance over time. A composite score and individual subscore scales will be produced. At the conclusion of the analysis in Year 3, researchers will also produce item maps and score reports to facilitate the interpretation of scores. In Year 4, quantitative analyses, such as analyses to examine the concurrent and predictive validity of the PALS español PreK measure will also be conducted.
Related IES Projects: Designing Assessment to Enhance English Literacy Development Among Spanish-Speaking Children in Grades K–3 (R305A090015)