How to Implement Effective Early Literacy Interventions: Bridging Research to Practice
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How to Implement Effective Early Literacy Interventions: Bridging Research to Practice


– [Naveed] The following
recording was created by the Regional Educational
Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. Information and materials
for this recording are supported by IES/NCEE’s Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University, contract ED-IES-17-C-0011 as resources and examples for
the listeners’ convenience. Their inclusion is not
intended as an endorsement by the Regional Educational
Laboratory Southeast or its funding source, the Institute of Education Sciences. In addition, the instructional
practices and assessments discussed in this recording
are not intended to mandate, direct, or control a state’s local educational agencies’ or schools’ specific instructional content, academic achievement
system and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction. State and local programs may
use any instructional content, achievement system and
assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction they wish. (upbeat transition music) – My name is Naveed Easton and I’ll be leading a
10-minute discussion with Regional Educational Laboratory, or REL, Southeast Director Dr. Barbara Foreman, on how to implement effective
early literacy interventions. Dr. Foreman, are there effective early literacy interventions? – [Dr. Foreman] Naveed,
thank you for helping us with this important discussion. Yes, there are effective
early literacy interventions. In fact, the What Works Clearinghouse has a recent practice guide that
provides recommendations for instructional practice
based on a systematic review of the early literary intervention
research since 2000, the year that the National Reading Panel completed its review. The name of the guide is, “Foundational Skills to Support
Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade”, and the REL Southeast
has professional learning community materials and videos
to accompany this guide. – [Naveed] The practice guide and professional learning community materials are available on the IES website. Dr. Foreman, can you
talk about your recent early literacy interventions study? – [Dr. Foreman] Yes. My most recent study was
a randomized control trial of early literacy interventions
in 55 low-performing schools in the south-central
and north of Florida. This study was funded by the REL Southeast and took place during school
years 2013-14, and 2014-15. 27 schools in the first year,
and 28 in the second year. – [Naveed] What kind of
literacy interventions did you compare? – [Dr. Foreman] We compared two tier-two pullout interventions for
students in grades K-2, below the 30th percentile on
language and reading measures. One used standalone
materials and the other used materials embedded in the
existing core reading program. Using embedded materials is appealing because they are aligned with
core classroom instruction, and do not require the purchase
of additional materials. However, embedded materials
have no evidence base. Therefore, for the standalone materials, we selected a reading
intervention from the What Works Clearinghouse
called Sound Partners, with strong evidence
ratings in alphabetics, fluency and comprehension, a vocabulary program called
The Bridge of Vocabulary with good clinical evidence, and the syntactic intervention
called Language in Motion, with good efficacy data. The embedded intervention
was the tier-two component of HMH Journeys, a widely
adopted core reading program in Florida. Both interventions
included 30 minutes daily of reading intervention, and 15 minutes of language intervention. – [Naveed] How did you
implement the interventions? – [Dr. Foreman] The interventions
were delivered daily, starting in October, for
45 minutes, for 27 weeks, in small groups of four students
in kindergarten and grade 1 and five students in grade 2. There were 794 small groups
and 3,468 students total across the two years,
with about one third of participating students
being English-learners and over 80 percent enrolled
in the Federal Lunch Program. Interventionist included
school district personnel and locally-hired people and
were trained and supported by REL Southeast staff. Fidelity of implementation was
above 80 percent on average and attrition was low. Out of 135 days of possible intervention, both standalone and embedded
interventions had 92 to 98 days of intervention on average. – [Naveed] What were the results? – [Dr. Foreman] The
standalone intervention significantly improved
Grade 2 spelling outcomes relative to the embedded intervention. But impacts on other student
outcomes were similar for the two interventions. On average, students in schools that use the standalone intervention and
students in schools that use the embedded intervention
showed similar improvement in reading and language outcomes, starting on average below the
10th percentile in reading and ending up approaching
the 25th percentile. The two interventions also
had similar impacts on reading and language outcomes among English-language-learner students and non-English-learner students, except for some reading
outcomes in kindergarten. – [Naveed] What were
those differential reading outcomes in kindergarten? – [Dr. Foreman] In kindergarten, English-learner students in
embedded intervention schools performed better in phonological awareness than did non-English-learner students. But non-English-learner
students in standalone intervention schools performed
better in word reading than English-learner students. In embedded intervention schools, non-English-learner
students performed better in word reading in kindergarten than did English-learner students,
possibly because the embedded intervention was
aligned to classroom instruction and included more emphasis
on comprehension activities. – [Naveed] So what are
the policy implications of these results? – [Dr. Foreman] Both interventions were implemented with fidelity.
By training school personnel to administer them, local capacity was built to
carry on the intervention after the study ended. Students had gained over 20
percentile points on average in reading and even more
in sentence comprehension. But how could impacts be increased? Suggestions are to intervene earlier, for example in pre-K, reduce group size from 4-5
students down to 1-3 students, and increase scaffolding of comprehension for English-learners. The alignment of the
tier-two intervention, with tier-one classroom instruction in the embedded intervention was an asset, and could be made even more effective if the quality of tier-one is also improved. The reading component of
the standalone intervention required teachers to
remediate individual students, which was difficult to
accomplish in a group format. – [Naveed] What were
the biggest challenges of conducting early literacy
intervention at scale? – [Dr. Foreman] The biggest
challenge is a lack of will to solve problems of budget,
interventionist time and space. To assist districts
and schools in planning for early interventions, the REL Southeast created
a self-study guide to support practitioners
in identifying sources of evidence to address such questions as, “What is the need for
early literacy intervention at my school?” “How are my students performing and how many need to be served?” “In what components of literacy
are my students struggling?” “How will we determine
which students are served through early literacy intervention?” “Will additional adults
enter the classroom in order to assist the
teacher in differentiating instruction in small
groups, or will students be pulled out of their classroom
to receive intervention?” “How many minutes each day,
days per week, weeks per year, will students receive intervention?” “How will we select
instructional materials to use in early literacy intervention?” – [Naveed] What specific
solutions do you have for answering questions
regarding scheduling and selection of instructional
materials and assessments? – [Dr. Foreman] In the appendix
of the self-study guide, we provide sample bell
schedules that schools that participated in the early
literacy interventions study developed to maximize intervention time. Additionally, there’s a
REL Southeast report that addresses the advantage of
computer-adaptive assessments for measuring the abilities
of students at the tails of the literacy distribution, such as English-learners and
students in special education. Finally, another REL Southeast
report presents a rubric for rating the evidence base
of K5 English language arts instructional materials
using criteria from the What Works Clearinghouse
practice guides on literacy. I think it is also helpful to hear directly from
school administrators. I want to play a couple of clips from school administrators
who participated in the early literacy intervention study. These clips reinforce the
importance of scheduling and selection of instructional
materials and assessments. – [School Administrator 1]
What we’ve done recently is to, a) ensure that the main
curriculum that we choose does have an intervention piece to it. Therefore, the company itself that we purchase the curriculum
from should be able to provide professional development
in those interventions. Also, the coaches and the
district reading coach also become pretty fluent in what that intervention looks like, and so they can support their teachers or the instructional assistants
or their professionals that support as well. – [School Administrator 2]
Timing is of essence as well because you only have so
many hours within a day. Before the beginning of
the school year started we knew we were gonna be providing early literacy interventions
and we wanted to make sure that our master schedule
coincided with our early literacy intervention
to have snippets throughout our day in which we could work with our students. The more students we could work with, the more we’re making a
difference with our kids. – [School Administrator 1]
One of the things we also did was this summer as a group
of elementary principals, we also looked at
scheduling very similarly, trying to make sure that they blocked the time for intervention,
making that a priority, finding where the staff
was going to come from, so that they could go
ahead and tier out students so that it would make it easy to produce those interventions for students quickly. – [School Administrator 3]
As far as scheduling goes, you have to get the buy-in of your staff, but you have to establish a set time and be very consistent with it. When students are having
difficulty with literacy, they need time. So I would say as much as possible, 30 to 45 minutes, so that the child can really focus, have time to enjoy a book, and work on a little bit
of writing that’s connected to the skills and
strategies they’re learning. – [School Administrator
4] I really feel like with scheduling with instruction
and things like that, making sure that the
kids are not having to be retaught constantly
when the leave the room, that’s been a little bit of an obstacle. Not too major, but just enough. Some of these kids, they get therapies, and other things during the day, and that can be a little
bit of a struggle. But it’s just all about
scheduling and timeframes. – [Naveed] Do you have
advice for administrators who may not have a strong
background in early literacy? – [Dr. Foreman] The REL
Southeast has a school leaders’ literacy walk-through tool that helps draw principals’ attention to
evidence-based practices in K5 classrooms. – [Naveed] Do you have any
final advice for practitioners or researchers on how to implement early literacy interventions at scale? – [Dr. Foreman] Partner with each other. Partner with each other
on a research agenda that addresses high-priority needs at the district and school level. Too often researchers
place demands on schools for instructional time and space to answer the researcher’s questions
without creating buy-in for the project. Partnerships must be mutually beneficial if they are to form, produce changes, be sustained, and be scaled. – [Naveed] Thank you Dr. Foreman. All of the products that
Dr. Foreman referenced during this recording are
available on the IES website. Please explore these
and other REL products.

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