Development of a Comprehensive Assessment System for Spanish-Speaking English Language Learner's Early Literacy Skills
Co-Principal Investigator: Christopher Schatschneider
Purpose: In the United States, Spanish-speaking children both constitute the largest English language learner (ELL) subgroup and are the fastest growing school-age population. Findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP 2007) suggest that English language learners are at risk for academic failure throughout their school experience. For example, in fourth grade, only 30% of English language learners scored at or above the basic level in reading, compared to 71% of other fourth-grade students. In eighth grade, 30% of ELL students scored at or above the basic level in reading, compared to 76% of other eighth-grade students. Although the gap in reading achievement is present in elementary school and persists over time, there is little empirical guidance on education practices to reduce this achievement gap for ELL children. One impediment to improving instruction for ELL students is the lack of validated measures for use with Spanish-speaking ELL preschoolers. The purpose of this study is to develop and validate both a comprehensive assessment instrument and a screening measure for Spanish-speaking ELL preschool children’s early literacy skills. The measures will be designed for use by early childhood educators and other professionals to assess the development of Spanish-speaking ELL preschool children's early literacy skills.
Project Activities: The research team will complete the following project activities: (1) develop and refine scale items for the assessment of key literacy domains; (2) use item-response theory analyses to refine each subscale of the comprehensive measure; (3) establish the concurrent, predictive, and incremental validity of the subscales of the measure; (4) develop, refine, and validate screening versions of the measure; and (5) collect data to develop normative benchmarks for the comprehensive and screening versions of the measure.
Products: The Spanish Preschool Early Literacy Assessment (SPELA) will provide a comprehensive assessment of several key early literacy skills in Spanish. The comprehensive child assessment and teacher screening measures will be developed for use with Spanish-speaking ELL preschool-aged children regardless of Spanish dialect variations. This measure will account for the variations in Spanish language spoken in the United States.
Setting: Study participants will be recruited from preschools and child care settings in urban and suburban areas in Florida, California, Kansas, and Massachusetts.
Population: The study sample will include children from families reflecting language backgrounds from Central and South America, Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. All children participating in the data collection phases of the project will be Spanish-speaking English language learners who are preschool age (3-5 year olds).
Intervention: The research team will develop and validate both a comprehensive direct child assessment instrument and an early literacy skills screening measure for Spanish-speaking ELL preschool children. The Spanish Preschool Early Literacy Assessment (SPELA) will include the following domains: definitional vocabulary, phonological awareness, print knowledge, and invented spelling.
Research Design and Methods: The measurement development and validation work will take place over a 4-year period. Cross-sectional studies and a longitudinal study will be conducted to provide evidence of the validity of the measures being developed. The primary project tasks will include: (1) development and refinement of items appropriate for the assessment of each early literacy domain (i.e., definitional vocabulary, phonological awareness, print knowledge, and invented spelling); (2) the research team will use item-response theory analyses to refine each subscale of the comprehensive measure; (3) establish the validity of the subscales with appropriate criterion measures; (4) develop, refine, and validate screening version(s) of the measure; and (5) collect data to develop normative benchmarks for the comprehensive and screening versions of the measure.
Control Condition: There is no control condition.
Key Measures: Evidence for the validity of the measures to be developed will be obtained using standardized measures of conventional literacy skills in both Spanish and English. The following measures will be administered to participating children: (1) the Definitional Vocabulary, Phonological Awareness, and Print Knowledge subscales of the Test of Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL); (2) an experimental measure of invented spelling; (3) the Expressive Communication subscale of the Preschool Language Scales IV, Spanish version, (PLS-V:S); (4) the Phonological Awareness Task: Spanish Version (PAT:S); (5) the Letter-Word Identification, Word Attack, Passage Comprehension, Spelling, and Applied Problems subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson III and the Bateria III Woodcock-Munoz; and (6) the Block design and Matrix Reasoning subtests of the Weschler Preschool and Primary Intelligence Scale-Third Edition (WPPSI-III).
Data Analytic Strategy: Depending on the stage of the project, data analysis will involve statistics associated with classical test theory (item-difficulties, item-total correlations, internal consistency), item-response theory (IRT) analyses, correlational methods, multiple regression, and structural equation modeling. Classical test theory statistics and IRT analyses will be used to refine the measure to ensure optimal item selection and to assess for bias across age, sex, and dialect variation. Correlational, regression, and structural equation modeling will be used in phases of the project designed to investigate the concurrent, predictive, and incremental validity of the measure.