Evidence for Learning in Australia has published an evaluation report of a randomised controlled trial of MiniLit, a small group, phonics-based programme for struggling Year 1 readers. The intervention is targeted at the bottom 25% of pupils struggling to read, and focuses on improving pupils’ literacy in five areas: phoneme awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
The programme involved struggling readers from Year 1
classes in nine Australian primary schools located in New South Wales, and
consisted of 80 one-hour lessons delivered four to five days per week over 20
weeks. The lessons were delivered in school outside of regular lessons by
teachers to small groups of up to four pupils. A total of 237 pupils
participated, of which 119 were allocated to the MiniLit intervention group and
118 to the control group. Pupils in the control group received the school’s
usual learning support for struggling readers, which could include whole-class
approaches and/or support programmes for struggling readers.
Overall, there was no evidence that MiniLit had any
additional impact on pupils’ reading at 12 months, measured using the York
Assessment of Reading Comprehension – Passage Reading (YARC-PR) tests compared
to pupils receiving usual reading support (ES = -0.04). However, there were
some positive effects for reading accuracy (ES = +0.13) and reading rate (ES =
+0.06). There was also evidence of improvement in foundational reading skills
at six months, particularly letter sound knowledge, which was also sustained at
The researchers point out, however, that the findings were
dependent on the quality of the MiniLit lessons which were provided to pupils. Schools
were limited to 20 weeks’ duration, and in many cases, teachers reported that this
length was not sufficient to complete the programme for all groups. They suggest
that improving how MiniLit is implemented may lead to more positive outcomes;
however, this requires further evaluation to determine.
Learning impact fund: Evaluation report (2019). Independent report prepared by the Murdoch Children’s Research
Institute and the University of Melbourne for Evidence for Learning
Projections estimate that by 2030, children with English as an Additional Language will comprise 25% of US students, 77% of whom will speak Spanish. Yet there is little evidence-based research addressing what works in literacy for the Spanish-speaking population. Trisha Borman and colleagues recently reported the first-year results of a randomised study of Descubriendo La Lectura (DLL), an individually administered Spanish literacy programme for first graders (Year 2) struggling with literacy in their native Spanish, examining its effects on both Spanish and English literacy.
DLL incorporates the research-proven
practices of 1:1 tutoring, using a student’s native language to improve their
second language, intervening early (in first grade), using data to track and
guide progress, professional development, research-proven practices, and
Subjects were first-grade students in
22 schools in 3 states, statistically matched at baseline and randomly assigned
to receive DLL either in the 2016 school year (experimental group, n=78), or
the 2017 school year (delayed treatment control group, n=74). Students
qualified for DLL if they spoke Spanish at home and scored below 25% on the IdO
(a test that assesses literacy). Students were also pretested and post-tested
using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and Logramos (the Spanish equivalent
of the ITBS). The experimental group received 30-minute lessons daily with
students and teachers meeting 1:1, progressing at their own pace until they
qualified to leave the programme and were post-tested. This process took 12-20
weeks, depending on the student.
Results favoured the DLL group, with statistically significant effect sizes on the Spanish Logramos averaging +0.55 (p<.001). On the English ITBS, the mean effect size was +0.17, which was not significant. There were larger positive outcomes on measures made by the developers. The programme will continue to be studied in two subsequent cohorts.
Source: Addressing Literacy Needs of Struggling Spanish-Speaking First Graders: First-Year Results From a National Randomized Controlled Trial of Descubriendo la Lectura (July 2019) AERA Open
In the field of education, professional development (PD) is intended to improve both classroom teaching and children’s learning. A new study, published in Journal of Educational Psychology, looks at what effect PD has when used at scale with large numbers of educators.
In this large-scale randomised controlled trial, Shayne B
Piasta and colleagues examined the effectiveness of a language and literacy PD
programme on both teacher and child outcomes in early childhood education. More
than 500 teachers across one US state took part in the trial and were randomly
assigned to one of three groups: professional development with coaching,
professional development without coaching, or a comparison group. Teachers in
the PD groups received 30 hours of state-sponsored language and literacy
professional development, with those assigned to the coaching groups also
receiving ongoing individualised coaching throughout the academic year.
Teachers in the comparison group also received state-sponsored PD, but in other
The results of the trial suggest that PD affected only a few
aspects of classroom language and literacy teaching practices relative to the
comparison group, and did not affect children’s literacy learning. PD with coaching
showed a small positive impact on the quantity of phonological awareness, while
both PD with and without coaching had a small positive impact on the quality of
teaching in phonological awareness and writing.
state-sponsored language and literacy professional development: Impacts on early
childhood classroom practices and children’s outcomes (June 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology
A new resource from Deans for Impact summarises current cognitive-science research related to how young children – from birth to age eight – develop skills across three domains: agency, literacy and numeracy.
It aims to
give guidance to anyone working in education who is interested in understanding
the science of how young children develop control of their own behaviour and
intentions, how they learn to read and write, and how they develop the ability
to think mathematically.
domain, the report identifies key questions about learning and provides a short
list of the principles from learning science that inform the answers to these
questions. The resource then connects these principles to a set of practical
implications for specific teaching strategies. The original research is clearly
referenced for anyone wishing to find out more.
Source: The science of early learning: How do young
children develop agency, literacy, and numeracy? (2019), Deans for Impact.
Celia Gomez and colleagues from the RAND Corporation have released a new research brief that examines Big Lift, a preschool to third-grade initiative designed to boost literacy skills and ensure that children are reading proficiently by third grade (Year 4). The initiative has been implemented in seven US school districts in San Mateo County, California, that have below-average third-grade reading levels. According to the brief, Big Lift seeks to improve third-grade reading through a set of four co-ordinated and integrated “pillars”: High-Quality Preschool, Summer Learning, School Attendance and Family Engagement.
The researchers have examined outcomes for two cohorts of
pupils: Cohort 1 includes pupils in four districts who receive Big Lift services,
and Cohort 2 an additional three districts. Data sources include early
childhood cognitive assessments, kindergarten (Year 1) and first-grade (Year 2)
entry forms completed by parents, and the San Mateo County Office of
Education’s countywide data system.
The current research brief is part of a multiphase
evaluation of Big Lift, and reports on findings after two years of implementation.
Key findings are as follows:
Lift preschool children in the 2017–2018 kindergarten class were better
prepared for kindergarten than demographically similar peers who did not attend
preschool — but they were less prepared than similar peers who attended non–Big
Lift preschool programmes.
who attended two years of Big Lift preschool were more kindergarten-ready than
similar peers who attended only one year.
the 2016–2017 kindergarten class, Big Lift preschool children had reading
levels at the end of kindergarten and the start of first grade that were on par
with similar peers who attended other preschool programmes and higher than
similar peers who attended no preschool at all.
Source: The Big
Lift preschool, two years in: What have we learned so far? (2018), RAND Corporation Research Briefs RB-10047-SVCF
A study published in Economics of Education Review looks at the evidence from the extended school day (ESD) programme in Florida to determine whether pupils benefit from longer school days.
In 2012, Florida introduced the ESD programme, increasing the length of the school day by an hour in the lowest-performing elementary (primary) schools in order to provide additional reading lessons. The lessons had to be based on research, adapted for pupil ability, and include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Schools were selected using school-level reading accountability measures. For this study, David Figlio and colleagues looked at reading scores for all pupils in Florida between grades 3 and 10 (Years 4 and 11) using school administrative data from 2005–06 and 2012–13, and employed a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of lengthening the school day, looking at the different performance of schools either side of the cut-off point.
Results indicated that the additional one hour of reading lessons had a positive effect on pupils’ reading achievement. ESD schools showed an improvement of +0.05 standard deviations on reading test scores in the first year. The annual cost of the ESD programme was $300,000-$400,000 per school, or $800 per pupil.
Source: Do students benefit from longer school days? Regression discontinuity evidence from Florida’s additional hour of literacy instruction (December 2018), Economics of Education Review, Volume 67