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Effectiveness of Georgia’s Early Intervention Program in Increasing Reading Scores

Updated on July 8, 2015
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Students in first through eighth grades in Georgia are administered the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) to measure competency on state learning standards, the Georgia Performance Standards. Scores on the CRCT are one of the primary measures of mastery of grade level standards used to inform parents, students, and educators of the student’s readiness for the next grade level. Thus, scores on the CRCT are critically important in determining the appropriateness of retention, promotion, and/or placement in specific programs.

Since early literacy is a significant factor in future academic success, it is essential that struggling students receive the most effective intervention as soon as difficulties are observed. McTaggart (2009) states, “Approximately five to ten percent of school-aged children are diagnosed with a reading disability (Lovett & Barron, 2003; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1999). Seventy-five percent of children who are diagnosed with a reading disability in grade three, and who do not receive effective intervention, continue to have academic problems in high school and throughout their lives (Lyon, 1997).”

Effective interventions applied consistently and pervasively are necessary to remediate reading difficulties at an early age. McTaggart (2009) cited research supporting her contention that “Evidence from controlled, longitudinal studies suggests that the most effective interventions are those that explicitly target those phonological processing skills and provide instruction in word identification strategies (Foorman et al.,

1997; Lovett et al., 2003; Swanson & Hoskyn, 1998). In addition, reading remediation programming must target several different dimensions of reading skill, including decoding, fluency, and reading comprehension (Fletcher, Denton, Fuchs, & Vaughn, 2005).”

While the CRCT is important for assessing the need and effectiveness of interventions for the student, it also has serious implications for the school. As schools’ financial and personnel resources are reduced, focusing available resources on the most effective interventions becomes critically important. Further, since the results of this high stakes test are the primary indicator of Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for No Child Left Behind, meeting at least minimum standards on the CRCT is also critical for all elementary and middle schools. Schools that do not make AYP for two consecutive years face increasingly severe consequences, culminating in the Georgia Department of Education taking management of the school.

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Problem Statement

Educators are constantly searching for ways to help struggling students improve academic performance as measured by CRCT scores, particularly students scoring below the minimum passing score of 800. A commonly used intervention is the Early Intervention Program (EIP) that utilizes explicit phonological instruction for reading remediation.

This program has several Georgia Department of Education accepted delivery models. The two models that will be examined in this quasi-experimental, non-equivalent control group research are the pull-out and self-contained models. In the pull-out model students leave the regular classroom for one or two periods daily for specific instruction in deficient subjects by a second, certified teacher. The self-contained model, in which students are served all day, relies on reduced class size to provide more concentrated emphasis on instruction and academic achievement by a single teacher. Both models serve a minimum of 11 and a maximum of 16 students in a class. State guidelines mandates students’ yearly formative assessments that reflect achievement gains to be the basis for inclusion and subsequent dismissal from EIP. Students who are performing at grade level as determined by CRCT scores are exited from EIP classes (Georgia Department of Education, n.d.).

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the efficacy of interventions through a pull-out and a self-contained EIP delivery model as measured by the CRCT reading score gains for fourth grade students. The pretest score is the third grade reading score and the posttest score is the fourth grade reading score.

Research Questions

This research will address the following questions:

  1. Do students scoring between 780 and 799 on the reading section of the third grade CRCT have significant gains on the fourth grade CRCT after receiving EIP pull-out intervention?
  2. Do students scoring between 780 and 799 on the reading section of the third grade CRCT have significant gains on the fourth grade CRCT after receiving EIP self-contained intervention?
  3. Do students scoring between 760 and 779 on the reading section of the third grade CRCT have significant gains on the fourth grade CRCT after receiving EIP pull-out intervention?
  4. Do students scoring between 760 and 779 on the reading section of the third grade CRCT have significant gains on the fourth grade CRCT after receiving EIP self-contained intervention?
  5. Is the self-contained model more effective than the pull-out model for fourth grade students scoring between 780 and 799 on the reading section of the third grade CRCT?
  6. Is the self-contained model more effective than the pull-out model for fourth grade students scoring between 760 and 779 on the reading section of the third grade CRCT?

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Research Design

To examine the effects of pull-out and self-contained EIP models on students’ gains on the reading portion of the CRCT, a quasi-experimental, non-equivalent control group design is utilized. Although a control group is normally a component of this research design, an acceptable modification includes additional experimental groups and omits the control group. This practice is supported by Gall, Gall, & Borg (2010). The

reasons a control group is not established are delineated later in this chapter in the limitations section. Randomization of subjects is not possible because placement in EIP classrooms was determined by CRCT reading scores and students were placed prior to the beginning of this study.

Further, students in one elementary school are served exclusively in self-contained classrooms while a second elementary school provides services for EIP students exclusively in pull-out classrooms. This study attempts to determine if a statistical difference exists in the reading scores after the implementation of each of the EIP delivery methods. Data analysis examines the effectiveness of services in a self-contained EIP classroom and effects of services in a pull-out EIP classroom. The analysis also determines the statistical significance of both interventions on reading score differences.

The independent variables are gender, age, and pretest CRCT reading scores. Two variables that are not considered are race and socio-economic status. Only four students in the sample are identified with a race other than Caucasian; therefore the portion of the sample is too small to consider. Additionally, since only three of the students in the sample are not of low socio-economic status, so this variable is not considered.

The samples are randomized with respect to all these variables, except the pretest scores that are used in part to establish the experimental groups. The experimental groups are high band/pull-out, low band/pull-out, high band/self-contained, and low

band/self-contained. Moderator variables, which are not controlled, are parental support for school and homework, parental attitude towards school and teachers, student

motivation, and teachers’ abilities. The dependent variables are CRCT reading test scores from the pre and posttests.

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Theoretical Framework

The literature on effective interventions indicates that intensive phonological instruction can cause significant improvement in a variety of students with reading deficiencies. Analysis of students’ performance after receiving instruction in the Auditory Discrimination in Depth Program and in Embedded Phonics, showed large improvements in generalized reading skills for both interventions (Torgesen, Alexander, Wagner, Rashotte, Voeller & Conway, 2001).

Recent controlled and comparative research designed to assess the effectiveness of a variety of reading remediation strategies has identified critical components and effective methods of reading instruction for students at risk. Foorman, Francis, Fletcher, Schatschneider, and Mehta (1998) found explicit instruction in alphabetic principle resulted in first and second graders with low socio-economic status making rapid gains in word identification skills.

Studies on remediation interventions that allow students to generalize their decoding proficiency so it will to carry over to fluent word recognition and increased reading comprehension are needed (Lovett, Lacerenza, Borden, Frijters, Steinback, & De Palma, 2000).

While there are numerous studies designed to determine the effectiveness of different instructional strategies, there has not been significant research conducted on the effectiveness of different delivery models. The focus of this research is not on the instructional methods used in the EIP classroom, but rather the two types of delivery models utilized: pull-out and self-contained. This research attempts to ascertain the most effective delivery model of EIP services for low achieving students.

Sample

The sample is drawn from third grade students in two elementary schools with similar demographics that utilize two different delivery models for EIP services. All students in the sample have scored 760-799 on the reading section of the third grade CRCT and are served in EIP. Further, the students are divided into groups using 19-point bands of 760 to 779 and 780 to 799 on the CRCT.

Data Collection and Analysis

Data from the CRCT is gathered from test coordinators at each school using students’ Georgia Test Identification numbers to ensure anonymity. These identification numbers remain the same each year so third and fourth grade test scores can be matched without reference to student names. The differences in third grade and fourth grade CRCT reading scores are computed for each student. An average difference and standard error is calculated for each band and delivery model. The average difference is a measure of the group’s improvement from third to fourth grade after the intervention was applied.

The standard error indicates the degree of dispersion of the individual scores and it is used in the calculations of the t test to determine if differences in the means are statistically significant.

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Core Terms

To fully understand the framework of this study, it is essential that core terms be defined. The CRCT was implemented in Georgia in 2000 to measure students’ competencies on state learning standards in reading, language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. The CRCT has undergone several revisions to reflect more accurately the Georgia Performance Standards, thereby increasing validity. The CRCT is a high stakes test, as the results are used to assess schools’ Annual Yearly Progress. Scores below 800 do not meet expectations; scores from 800 through 849 meet expectations; and scores 850 and above exceed expectations.

Students chosen for this study have third grade reading scores in one of two performance bands. The lower band students are those who scored from 760 to 779 while the upper band students scored from 780 to 799. Students are grouped in these bands to improve homogeneity with respect to reading ability as measured by the pretest. Additionally, grouping students in these bands permits analysis of the efficacy of each of the two delivery models with each of the two bands of students.

Value of Study

Reading is the basic building block upon which most academic learning depends. Students must learn to read so they can read to learn. Without sufficient decoding and comprehension skills, students will be unable to read and understand textbooks and other written material. It is essential to identify effective interventions for students not meeting academic standards in the previous grade level. Schools need a system in place to assist these children. The results of this study show which type of intervention is most effective with upper band students, as well as with lower band students.

Given the limited amount of time teachers have to teach students to read prior to them being expected to apply this knowledge, teachers must quickly identify students who are falling behind and provide effective interventions. Curriculum is being introduced at much earlier grade levels and students are being expected to master concepts at a much earlier age. Effective teaching bridges existing knowledge with new material.

Significance of Study

This study is designed to determine which delivery model is more effective for each pretest performance band to in order to focus limited resources on the intervention most likely to increase performance on the CRCT reading tests.

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Core Research Assumptions

It is assumed that all students will benefit from interventions, but not necessarily at the same rate. Interventions that are consistently and pervasively applied for a sustained period are likely to produce positive results because of increased focus on the deficient area. While achieving grade level proficiency in reading does not assure achieving grade level proficiency in other core academic subjects, significant reading deficiencies will most likely prevent academic success in other areas.

It is assumed that a lack of success on the CRCT is based on specific deficiencies that can be corrected, perhaps eliminating the need for EIP services for students when they have meet minimum grade level standards. Although EIP can and often does allow students to fill in instructional gaps and meet grade level expectations on the CRCT, this success may not be maintained. Students often return to EIP after exiting EIP the previous school year. This revolving door is affected by a lack of parental support with homework, low motivational level of students, and the student’s inability to learn at the same rate as the majority of the students in the grade level. It is important to note that it is assumed that the lack of progress is not due to a lack of cognitive ability.

It is further assumed that CRCT reading scores are a valid and reliable measure of reading ability. Since this is a high stakes test, the validity and reliability of the CRCT is closely monitored by the Georgia Department of Education. Even so, a single test should never be the sole determinant of a student’s ability level in any subject area. An additional measure of reading ability should be applied prior to any interventions being implemented. This multi-level assessment process is utilized with the students in this study in determining appropriateness for EIP placement. The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) results, while used in students’ placement decisions, are not addressed in this study as they lie outside the scope of this investigation.

Limitations

The relatively small sample size as compared to the school populations limits the reliability of the statistics. While a control group is very desirable in research studies, without sufficient students who are not EIP served and fall into the upper or lower band, so a control group cannot be established. There are three types of students who fall into the upper or lower band who are not served through EIP. Special education students get services in their area of diagnosed disability. This is another type of intervention and therefore these students are not included in EIP or this study. Some students cannot be served due to limitations on class size of 16 students. Additionally, a few students qualify for EIP services but are denied parental permission to participate in these specialized classes.

Finally, the Georgia Department of Education has several other models that are accepted EIP delivery models, but these are not being utilized in the study schools. The researcher does not have access to other schools’ CRCT data, so other models effectiveness cannot be examined.

References

Cline, D. (n.d.). Daniel Cline’s Educational Leadership Center for Excellence in Education Arkansas State University. Retrieved from http://education.astate.edu/dcline/index.html

Foorman, B. R., Francis, D. J., Mehta, P., & Schatschneider, C. (1997). The role of instruction in learning to read: Preventing reading failure in at-risk children. Journal of Educational Psychology 90, 37-55.

Gall, M. D., Gall, J. P., & Borg, W. R. (2010). Educational research: An introduction (8th ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Georgia Department of Education (n.d.). Georgia Department of Education Criterion- Referenced Competency Tests Home Page. Retrieved from http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/ci_testing.aspx?PageReq=CI_TESTING_CRCT

Lovett, M. W., Lacerenza, L., Borden, S. L., Frijters, J. C., Steinback, K. A., & De Palma, M. (2000). Components of effective remediation for developmental reading disabilities: Combining phonological and strategy-based instruction to improve outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology 92(2), 263-284.

McTaggart, J. (2009). The impact of motivational variables in a reading remediation program using a self-determination theory framework. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Guelph (Canada), Canada. Retrieved from Dissertations & Theses Text. (Publication No. AAT NR55218)

Torgesen, J. K., Alexander, A. W., Wagner, R. K., Rashotte, C. A., Voeller, K. K., & Conway, T. (2001). Intensive remedial instruction for children with severe reading disabilities: immediate and long-term outcomes from two instructional approaches. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34(1), 33-58, 78.

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