DLL por favor!

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 teacher collaboration.

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

Positive results for AmeriCorps tutoring programme

This report shares findings of an independent study of Minnesota Reading Corps (MRC), an AmeriCorps programme that provides trained literacy tutors for children aged 3 to 9. It shows that primary pupils tutored by AmeriCorps members achieved significantly higher literacy levels than those without such tutors, and impacts were statistically significant even among pupils at higher risk of academic failure.

The research, which was completed by NORC at the University of Chicago, involved a randomised controlled trial of more than 1,500 pupils from kindergarten (Year 1) through to third grade (Year 4) at 23 urban, suburban, and rural Minnesota schools during the 2012-13 school year. These pupils were assigned to either the MRC programme or to a control group. Outcomes were measured using the AIMSweb literacy assessments, which evaluated letter sound fluency, nonsense word fluency, and oral reading fluency.

Overall, key findings included:

  • After a single term of tutoring, the average kindergarten child with an AmeriCorps tutor performed twice as well as children without one.
  • AmeriCorps tutors helped the average first grade pupil perform 11% better than untutored peers, and 26% higher than the expected level for on-track pupils after one term of tutoring.
  • Pupils with higher risk factors (such as those with English as an Additional Language or those who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch) who received AmeriCorps tutoring significantly outperformed similar pupils.

Source: Impact Evaluation of the Minnesota Reading Corps K-3 Program, NORC at the University of Chicago.

Reading partners

A new policy brief from MDRC summarises the early results of an evaluation of the Reading Partners one-to-one volunteer reading programme, and finds positive impacts.

The programme serves more than 7,000 struggling readers in primary schools in deprived areas of several US states. Tutors do not need to have any experience, but are given training and ongoing support. Reading Partners received $7 million in investments and grants to expand to more schools throughout the US, and for an evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme.

This evaluation took place during the 2012-2013 school year in 19 schools in three states, and involved 1,265 pupils. Positive impacts were found on three different assessments of reading proficiency which measured reading comprehension, fluency, and the ability to read sight-words efficiently. The authors say that these encouraging results demonstrate that Reading Partners, when delivered on a large scale and implemented with fidelity, can be an effective tool for improving reading proficiency.

Source: Reading Partners: The Implementation and Effectiveness of a One-on-One Tutoring Program Delivered by Community Volunteers (2014), MDRC.

Research is vital, but isn’t always straightforward

The EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) is funding a series of randomised controlled trials, with the aim of increasing the research base on various educational interventions. The first six reports have now been published. Three of the reports provide clear guidance as to the effectiveness of the interventions they evaluate.

  • Switch-on Reading is an intensive ten-week literacy intervention, delivered on a one-to-one basis by teaching assistants to struggling Year 7 pupils. The EEF evaluation found an overall effect size of +0.24, meaning that the programme made a noticeable positive impact.
  • Catch Up® Numeracy is a one-to-one intervention delivered by teaching assistants to primary children who are struggling with numeracy. The EEF evaluation found that although the Catch-Up children made significant gains, there was little evidence that this was over and above gains made from one-to-one teaching with teaching assistants not using Catch-Up.
  • Grammar for Writing is a literacy intervention that aims to improve the writing skills of Year 6 pupils by providing contextualised grammar teaching. The EEF evaluation found it was not effective when delivered as a whole-class intervention over four weeks, and only modestly effective as a small-group intervention (although this is likely to be a result of small-group teaching, rather than an intrinsic benefit of Grammar for Writing itself).

The other three reports illustrate the challenges of conducting robust research. None were able to draw decisive conclusions because of problems with implementation fidelity (Anglican Schools Partnership Effective Feedback); difficulties in recruiting pupils and preventing dropout (Future Foundations Summer School); and unreliable data (Response to Intervention).

Updated evidence report on Reading Recovery

An updated report from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) provides new information on the effectiveness of Reading Recovery for beginning readers. Reading Recovery is a supplemental programme that provides one-to-one tutoring to children aged five or six. It aims to promote literacy skills and foster the development of reading and writing strategies by tailoring individualised lessons to each child. The WWC found that Reading Recovery has positive effects on general reading achievement and potentially positive effects on alphabetics, reading fluency, and comprehension for beginning readers.

Robert Slavin, a Professor in the IEE, published a recent blog post on Reading Recovery. In it, Jerry D’Agostino, director of Reading Recovery’s i3 project, explains how Reading Recovery has dealt with the challenge of long-term sustainability.