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Evidence-Based and Cost-Effective Reading Intervention

When making decisions on education investments, both cost and efficiency must be taken into account. Both factor into the academic ROI, where the idea is to maximize student achievement for a certain sum spent. 

There are many studies that explore the impact of educational tools, but the cost-effectiveness of these tools is often overlooked

Costs include the price tag of such tools, but also the cost of the resources that are required for their successful implementation. 

With the launch of Sprig Reading for the upcoming school year, it is a great time to discuss cost-effectiveness in raising reading achievement. Sprig Reading is meant to be an evidence-based, affordable solution for educators to improve the literacy scores of their students. 

 

Reading Intervention Can be Very Expensive

Reading Intervention Can Be Expensive

In a cost-effectiveness analysis of 7 early literacy programs that have been effective at improving reading outcomes for K-3 students, the cost per student was associated with the grade level and students’ reading struggles. 

For students at higher grade levels (e.g., Grade 3) and those that are really struggling (e.g., bottom 25th percentile), program costs were as much as $10,108 per student (or over $200,000 for a typical classroom of 20 students)!

For students in Grade 1 who were scoring in the bottom 20th percentile, the cost per student was $4,144. For kindergarten students, who were scoring well below average in the bottom 20th-30th percentile, the costs were $791 per student.

For students in Grade 1 scoring slightly below average, the cost per student was $282. Despite being at a higher grade than kindergarten, the cost implications were lower because of the focus on students who were struggling, but closer to the 50th percentile. 

Besides grade level and reading struggles, program duration also heavily influenced the pricing per student. The shortest intervention studied, at 5 weeks, was $479 per student, whereas a 28-week program ranged from $6,696 to $10,108. 

Besides the three levers (grade level, student scores, and program duration) that control costs, a major takeaway from the cost-effectiveness analysis study is the hefty price that is to be paid for each struggling reader.

At a time when students are recovering from missed learning opportunities due to the pandemic, it is not uncommon to see more than half of the class miss the mark for reading proficiency. 

For example, in a class of 20 students, this means 10 students will require some level of reading intervention.

In kindergarten, considering the lower cost per student from the two sample cases in the study ($479), the costs amount to approximately $5,000 per classroom. 

In grade 3, considering the lower cost per student from the two sample cases in the study ($6,696), the costs amount to approximately $65,000 per classroom.

Whichever way we look at it, reading intervention is a costly measure. 

Reading Intervention Cost Comparison

Early Reading Intervention Program VS Sprig Reading

Footnotes

  1. Based on the following research studies: 

https://amplify.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/mCLASS_MOY-Results_February-2022-Report.pdf

https://literacy.virginia.edu/sites/g/files/jsddwu1006/files/2022-04/PALS_StateReport_Fall_2021.pdf

https://www.chapinhall.org/wp-content/uploads/Reading_on_Grade_Level_111710.pdf

  1. # of students needing intervention = # of students x % not reaching reading proficiency  

3. Note that these costs are averages and costs differ based on the reading intervention needs of each student.  Based on the following research studies:

https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1020&context=cbcse

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1089965.pdf

  1. Note that total costs assume there is a budget to support every student that requires reading intervention. In actuality, most school budgets will not cover every single student’s needs at each grade level. Total Costs = # of students requiring intervention x Average cost per student

5. Total Costs Per Grade = # of students requiring intervention x Average cost per student

As the table above shows, proven and successful early reading intervention programs can be very costly.  For a typical school, costs can quickly add up to more than $275,000 for a year to support all students in need of early reading interventions.  Now given this high price tag for a school (and school division), often difficult decisions are required to determine which students will receive the reading intervention support due to the lack of funds.

The table above further outlines the costs of Sprig Reading, an evidence-based early reading tool that supports teachers to assess, monitor, plan and instruct on the foundational reading skills. This program has repeatedly proven to bring over 90% of students to reading at grade-level.

In a typical school, the above table shows that when using an inclusive program like Sprig Reading, as early as pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, school costs can be drastically reduced as fewer students require more expensive reading intervention programs in grade 3 and beyond.  

Sprig Reading is now available for purchase or a free trial on our website. Simply scroll down to the bottom of the page and choose the option that best suits you.

 

Reading Intervention Can Be Exclusive

Reading Intervention can be Exclusive

Given the high costs of reading intervention programs, it cannot be guaranteed that every student who requires help will receive it.  

Further, if students are not identified in kindergarten, latent gaps in foundational reading skills generally appear at the higher grade levels. 

Not to mention, it is more costly to intervene at the higher grade levels, as seen in the last section.  

Rather, if schools adopt a structured literacy inspired or evidence-based approach for the whole classroom, the likelihood of students requiring intervention decreases. 

Maria Murray, president of The Reading League, a nonprofit, literacy organization out of New York, says that the gap in reading can be closed with “transformative change in the classroom—not just heaping on more programs”. 

She goes on to say “Too often, it’s just an additive model with little to no attention to core classroom instruction and the knowledge that the teachers possess”.

Thus, in order to improve the methods of teaching reading to raise literacy scores, more attention needs to be paid in strengthening the curriculum and increasing the knowledge of educators.

In other words, early literacy efforts have to be widespread and inclusive. The preparation should be such that every student is ready to be helped with research-backed practices and teacher knowledge that minimizes the need for later intervention. 

 

Addressing the Root of the Issue of Reading Interventions

Addressing the Root of the Issue of Reading Interventions

There have been studies showing the efficiency of reading intervention programs in raising alphabetics and text reading fluency scores, albeit at a very high cost per unit increase in the effect size.

 

Two questions arise. 

  1. Are intervention solutions reaching all students and are the gains being sustained? The reading achievement per grade level is still very low across North America. This suggests that there is room for improvement in both whole classroom coverage and skills retainment.

 

  1. Is this sustainable? Given how expensive reading intervention programs are per student, can they be sustained given the pressures from other academic needs such as after school tutoring, new teaching staff hires, and summer learning.

 

If the desired achievement results are not attained, it makes sense to try new evidence-based approaches that have the potential to reduce costs. For example, Stacy Pim, an elementary reading specialist in Virginia, noticed that the skills of Grade 1 students were not improving, and by Grade 2 most of them were reading below grade level. She took it upon herself to use more of her instruction time to teach students phonics-based components such as letter-sound correspondence.  Only a year and half later, Virginia enacted a law mandating evidence-based literacy training and instruction. 

EducationWeek reported that the most popular reading programs did in fact diverge from evidence-based practices in teaching struggling readers. Phonics is included as a component, but not in the systematic manner that is recommended by the Science of Reading. It is often challenging for teachers to organize classroom lessons in the correct sequence in such programs. 

 

Reading Intervention Is Still Needed. 

Reading Intervention is Still Needed

There will always be some students who require extra intensive support that can only be delivered using a pull-out method and with the help of early literacy specialists. 

But Early and Only When Required.

Research says that 80% of students should be able to read in any environment or with explicit and direct high-quality tier 1 instruction, meant for the whole classroom. 

An additional 15% of students can be moved to tier 1 with additional attention and support. This may mean actual reading intervention programs, or in-class differentiated small group instruction.

But it’s safe to say that no more than 20% of students should require reading intervention when early evidence-based approaches to early reading are implemented in kindergarten.

By focusing on early literacy tools that supplement or strengthen the foundational reading skills, it’s possible to greatly reduce the number of students requiring additional intervention programs later on. 

This reduces expenditures for the school and school districts while simultaneously ensuring every student is on a track to achieve reading success grounded in strong foundational reading skills. 

In the truest sense of the definition, it improves academic ROI!

 

Credits

<a href=”https://www.flaticon.com/free-icons/read” title=”read icons”>Read icons created by Freepik – Flaticon</a>

Improving Reading With Dyslexia in Early Literacy

Science of Reading-based literacy programs often focus on phonics and phonological awareness. They are two major factors that, when mastered, lead to reading success.

Students with dyslexia specifically struggle with these two things. They have difficulty learning how sounds relate to alphabets, and how words are composed of different sounds.

Dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to process language. 

With the push towards evidence-based early literacy approaches and reforms in reading instruction, helping dyslexic early learners has become a major topic in conversations surrounding literacy equity. 

Dyslexia, and other related co-occurring learning disorders like ADHD, can put affected students at a disadvantage. In a diverse classroom, the needs of such students can be overlooked, unless we pledge to take the necessary steps to provide the support they need.

In this article, Sprig covers the basics of dyslexia, and offers tips to improve reading with dyslexia in the early years of education. 

Although dyslexia is non-curable, when properly managed, it’s possible for many dyslexic students to be proficient in reading!

 

 How Common is Dyslexia? 

The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity estimates that dyslexia affects 20% of the population and represents 80-90% of all those who have some sort of learning disability.  

Thus, it is very common, and is the leading cause of reading difficulty for those who are struggling to read.

The International Dyslexia Association also confirms dyslexia’s wide prevalence, stating that 15-20% of the population are affected by it. 

Hence, dyslexia is a challenging reality of early literacy that needs to be addressed. 

To begin tackling the reality of dyslexia, it’s good to be aware of the diagnosis process. 

 

Who Does Dyslexia Affect Most?

Who Does Dyslexia Affect Most

There is not enough evidence to state that any one specific age group or gender is more affected by dyslexia. There is evidence to suggest however, that children with dyslexic parents have a greater risk of developing dyslexia.

Dyslexia starts affecting the child as soon as symptoms emerge, and if these signs are not dealt with, their likelihood of reading success dwindles with every school year.

For example, here are some guideposts for symptoms of dyslexia.

15 months: First word not uttered yet.

24 months: First phrase not uttered yet.

Before age 5: Not recognizing alphabets and common rhyming patterns, mispronouncing familiar words and difficulty learning words.

Age 5 to 6: Having problems speaking and pronouncing words, not associating letters with sounds, making reading errors not related to any sounds of letters in the sentence, expressing how difficult reading is and not wanting to go to school. 

 

Thus, it makes sense that, rather than just spending effort in the correct diagnosis of dyslexia, it’s better to create a system that monitors all signs of symptoms at every early grade, starting from pre-K if possible. 

Such an inclusive approach treats every early learner with a safety net. Regardless if the student is actually dyslexic or not, corrective measures can be taken by teachers at the earliest onset of symptoms. 

It begins with how familiar the teachers are about dyslexia’s impact in early literacy. 

 

Are Teachers Trained to Recognize Dyslexia?

Are Teachers Trained to Recognize Dyslexia

Many states are enacting legislation that requires dyslexia training for teachers. 

In a study of over 500 teachers from one such Midwestern state, it was found that teachers held both scientific conceptions as well as misconceptions about the concept of dyslexia. 

For example, 94% of teachers correctly agreed that students with dyslexia have difficulty reading and spelling words. But 81% also incorrectly agreed that seeing letters and words backwards was a characteristic of dyslexia. 

It was found that the reported amount of previous training on dyslexia significantly predicted the teacher’s dyslexia knowledge scores. 

That’s why it is so important to include units in teacher professional development that cover dyslexia. 

With the right knowledge, teachers will have a strong understanding of dyslexic symptoms, be able to better assess it, and apply the correct interventions. 

 

Best Intervention for Dyslexia

Best Intervention for Dyslexia

Research confirms that the assessment and intervention approach works well for identifying and helping children who are failing to learn to read at an expected rate. 

Programs which consist of training in letter-sound knowledge, segmenting and blending, and reading from texts, tend to be better than programs which only focus on oral language skills. 

Researchers have studied the components of evidence-based interventions for literacy difficulties to recommend that interventions be:

Systematic

Well-structured

Multi-sensory

Incorporate Direct Teaching 

Involve frequent revision

 

All of these program traits are a part of Science of Reading-based early literacy programs. 

 

Advice From Dyslexia Reading Programs

  • Keep it Straightforward

Single step directions that are easy to follow are best for instructing students who are challenged with dyslexia. It’s why explicit instruction is such a main feature of Science of Reading-based reading approaches. 

  • Keep it Interactive

Providing multiple opportunities for participation is important for engaging students and ensuring they are regularly interacting with teachers and classmates. 

Because early reading struggles can be so discouraging, avoiding interactions all together is a common go-to move for early learners, which has to be avoided if the goal of reading proficiency by Grade 3 is to be achieved.

  • Keep it Transparent

In order to bring forth true literacy equity, the learning journey of every child needs to be accounted for.  Programs should facilitate the tracking of phonemic awareness milestones and see if early learners are truly able to read without the help of any visual aid. 

 

Build Reading Proficiency in Every Dyslexic Learner

Build Reading Proficiency in Every Dyslexic Learner

To date, there is no permanent cure for dyslexia. But by intervening early and sustaining high-quality early literacy instruction, it is possible to alleviate the symptoms. 

When help is available for dyslexic students, they are more likely to succeed as readers. It’s why making the right support available in the early grades is so important for reading success.

Rather than waiting for a diagnosis, which can be difficult because there isn’t an official test for dyslexia, it’s better to take timely action by observing symptoms.

When teachers have the right background knowledge in dyslexia, and have the tools to provide evidence-based literacy instruction, dyslexic students can benefit from the rigorous and repeated instruction they require, to overcome their initial learning challenges.

Achieving over 90% grade-level reading achievement will mean that a large number of dyslexic students will learn how to read. 

Sprig Reading promises to help teachers teach, assess and differentiate learning for students with dyslexia. Find out more information by joining the waitlist. Be the first in line to get details on the launch event. 

How Literacy Coaches Help Reading Achievement 101

Sprig Learning creates early learning programs that build early literacy skills and ensure every child reads confidently by Grade 3. Sprig’s holistic approach sets it apart from most programs, in that it involves multiple individuals in supporting the success of the child.

This includes teachers, specialists, education administrators, staff, parents, caretakers, etc., all of whom coordinate their efforts to give the child the best early learning experience.

All of these early learning roles can be put into two categories. In-school and out-of-school. 

Last article, Sprig focused on the reading specialist, an extremely important role in any early literacy team. 

This week, we turn our attention to the literacy coach. Like the reading or literacy specialist, it’s another in-school role that plays an invaluable part in teaching school children how to read.

 

Who Is a Literacy Coach?

Who Is a Literacy Coach

The literacy coach, or reading coach, is someone trained in early literacy and who is aware of all recent developments in reading research. They use these skills to show teachers how to more effectively help students learn to read.

The role of a literacy coach is multivarious. It involves planning for coaching, reviewing teaching and assessment practices, and organizing resources for early literacy instruction.

With literacy specialists, the focus is more on directly instructing students and supporting teachers where appropriate. With literacy coaches, the focus is more on the planning and collaborative process. It is constant co-creation in every aspect of teaching.

The literacy coach meets with teachers to listen to them and learn about their efforts, needs, strengths and concerns. They co-review the assessment data, student goals and student characteristics to set priorities. They also co-plot the teacher’s schedule to match teaching goals to time allocations. 

 

The Literacy Coach in Action

The Literacy Coach in Action

​​Indeed, because of the diverse nature of the literacy coach role, it helps to understand what is expected of them.

A lot is expected from the literacy coach. The International Reading Association outlines the following five criteria for literacy coaches.

  1. Excellent classroom teachers.
  2. In-depth knowledge of reading, instruction and assessment.
  3. Experience working with teachers in professional development.
  4. Excellent presentation skills.
  5. Experience in modeling, observing and coaching. 

 

All five criteria are equally important. To gain further clarity on how these expectations are executed everyday in the school, let’s look at a qualitative study of literacy coaches in Ontario, Canada. 

The study found that literacy coaches served three major roles in their schools. Namely, school literacy program organizers, school leaders and support providers.

 

Program Organizers

As school literacy program organizers, literacy coaches perform organizational tasks such as following up with the ministries of education, corresponding with school board members, updating school evidence binders, organizing book rooms, and consulting with teachers to order new resources. 

 

School Leaders

As school leaders, the literacy coaches adopt new literacy initiatives and lead the way in conducting professional development sessions for teachers and guiding professional learning communities. 

 

Support Providers

As support providers, the literacy coaches act as the support person for content knowledge and resources. Teachers regularly seek advice from them about assessments, lessons and professional reading materials. The literacy coaches also provide emotional support, which consists of encouraging, thanking and rallying the teachers.

 

The Need for Literacy Coaching

The Need for Literacy Coaching

​​It’s hardly surprising that given everything literacy coaches do for teachers and early literacy programs, they have a tremendous impact on literacy achievement. 

In large urban school districts, literacy coaching has led to statistically significant improvements in student learning, teacher practice and classroom literacy environment. 

Children’s Literacy Initiative did a review of nine studies that show that teachers who receive 14 hours of sustained literacy coaching show positive gains in their students’ literacy scores. 

Furthermore, these gains are larger for teachers who receive 30 or more hours of literacy coaching throughout the whole school year. 

 

Keys to Effective Literacy Coaching

Keys to Effective Literacy Coaching

Given the importance of literacy coaching, how can they be better supported?

The research on effective literacy coaching points to several factors that influence the effectiveness of the literacy coach:

  • Coach’s accessibility.
  • Teachers’ ability to have one-on-one interaction with their coach.
  • Inclusion of teachers in the coaching planning process.
  • Adjustment of coaching model to meet local needs.
  • Principal’s support for the coach.
  • Expertise on coaching material.
  • Adherence to the coaching model.
  • Resistance to the coaching model.
  • Respect for teachers.

 

These factors can be broadly summarized to state three findings. In order for literacy coaching to be effective, there needs to be:

  1. Adequate collaboration between the literacy coach and the teacher.
  2. Acceptance of the literacy strategy implemented in the school or district by all (strategy will include model and resources).
  3. Appropriate modification of the literacy strategy, as needed.

 

Looking at literacy coach evaluations from 15 states, the vast majority of principals and teachers agree that the literacy coach is a helpful, knowledgeable and valuable resource for effective instruction. 

There seems to be enough support for the literacy coach role in its ability to collaborate with others and dictate the literacy strategy. It’s the quality of implementation of the finer details of any literacy program that deserves a closer review.

It can be difficult to manually keep track of a literacy plan. With so many students and teaching roles involved, the right tools can make a world of difference.

 

Technology’s Potential in Literacy Coaching

technology's Potential in Literacy coaching

Picture: Report that shows learning activities completed by class and by student. *Sample*

 

Like most literacy related positions in school and elsewhere, the literacy coach has to evaluate the extent of technology use in teaching early literacy skills and concepts.

In a phonics-based reading program, it takes numerous repetitions to train the formative brain to access new information accurately. The right digital literacy program can systematically offer these review activities to a group of early learners. The teachers supervise these activities for one group of students so they learn the concept being taught, while engaging with another group for more direct instruction.

These groups can then be alternated, with the latter group practicing what they have been taught under supervision, and the former group being assessed for their new skill level for that particular reading exercise. 

Phonics instruction stresses the connection between written letters and spoken sounds. Direct, explicit and multi-sensory instruction of new phonemic concepts teaches literacy to students in line with the Science of Reading.

Such structured literacy programs are best delivered with the help of technology that keeps track of all lessons learned and organizes all lessons sequentially. 

Given all the hats the literacy coach has to wear, it definitely helps to have an evidence-based program in place where collaboration and instruction adjustment can occur.

The literacy coach and the teacher can co-plan for a class of students by looking at every essential reading skill that needs to be tackled throughout the year. By formatively assessing each student using the same program, they can discuss appropriate interventions when necessary.

 

Literacy Coaches Are Here to Stay

Literacy Coaches Are Here to Stay

​​Building early literacy skills and supporting learning recovery require high-skilled teachers in every content area. In literacy especially, schools need language professionals. 

Literacy coaches are becoming essential at a time when new approaches are being tried to improve literacy scores. The school relies on coaches for their collaboration, leadership and support.

Literacy coaches are in a partnership with teachers for ongoing job-embedded professional learning that increases teacher capacity to meet students’ needs. So there is a potential to make long-term gains as well, where teachers’ skills are leveled up from year-to-year. 

Literacy coaches greatly amplify teachers’ reflection on students, the curriculum, and pedagogy. Such an enhanced and deliberate thought process leads to more effective decision making, characterized by data-oriented student and teacher learning.

This is part of an ongoing blog series on important early literacy positions. Sprig is all about doing whatever it takes to achieve literacy for all early learners. If you have any questions or ideas about how we can take further steps to bring forth literacy equity, please do get in touch.

The Undeniable Case for Early Literacy Intervention

Literacy gaps that emerge in the earlier grades tend to widen in the later elementary years. To address educational inequity immediately, it’s necessary to intervene at the right time. 

Early literacy interventions provide additional literacy instruction to those K-3 students who require it. 

Sprig Learning builds early learning programs that build foundational literacy skills. 

It’s better to create an education system that assesses everyone early on for learning strengths and deficits, and provides appropriate instructions. 

Such an education culture is inclusive towards all and mitigates the need for interventions.

Often the word “literacy intervention” conjures up thoughts that relate to cost-inefficiencies and doubts over its overall efficiency. 

But with hundreds of reading intervention programs being used by thousands of schools, we are past the point of debating the usability of interventions. 

Rather, the focus should be on how to best implement literacy interventions in schools. 

In this article, Sprig makes a case for early literacy interventions.

 

How Early Should Interventions Start?

How Early Should Interventions Start

The question of when to introduce intervention implies that supplemental reading instruction should only be an afterthought to initial reading performance. 

But it’s known that early learners arrive in kindergarten with a wide range of skill levels in phonological awareness, alphabet recognition, print awareness and other essential literacy skills. 

Students at this stage who lag behind often have difficulty catching up with their peers once they begin to receive instruction. 

Thus, early literacy intervention should be implemented in accordance with identified skill deficits as soon as possible. This can occur as early as preschool or kindergarten. 

Early literacy interventions in kindergarten have produced significant results in multiple language domains for students who are linguistically diverse learners.

Results from multiple studies show that a higher percentage of Grade 1 students tend to reach grade-level proficiency with the help of interventions than Grade 2 students. Thus, intervening at Grade 2 is sometimes too late.

Early literacy intervention should begin as early as possible. 

If literacy skills fade-out is a concern, then it must be noted that early literacy intervention participants have consistently shown to read at or above their grade level as far as three years beyond their intervention.

We all know that Grade 3 reading performance is one of the most reliable predictors of lifelong academic and social success. 

Thus, we can say that in order for the early learner to sharpen all their reading skills, leading to mastery by Grade 3, they should be properly assessed by kindergarten or Grade 1. 

Doing so will not only boost their literacy achievement performance in the short run, but establish a runway for them to become confident readers by Grade 3.

 

Prevention of Reading Failure

Prevention of Reading Failure

​​One of the main advocacy points of early literacy intervention is its ability to prevent reading failure.

While it’s important to maximize the learning potential of every child, it’s just as important to help those children who are at risk of falling through the cracks of the current education system.

The National Institute of Child Health & Human Development reports that 74% of children entering Grade 1 at risk for reading failure have reading challenges later as adults. This further corroborates the urgency of early interventions.

Research shows that children who have difficulty acquiring phonemic awareness and phonics skills generally fail to read, or read poorly, and that those poor reading skills are perpetuated without proper interventions. 

Thus we see that when it comes to interventions, it’s not just about intervening early, but making sure those interventions are informed by instruction that is backed by the Science of Reading.

Intervening very early on by creating a culture of assessments for all types of learners may help increase the size of the safety net. 

But the type of explicit and systematic instruction that goes into addressing some of these skill gaps speaks to the quality of the safety net. Interventions should also be a part of structured literacy. 

 

Lessons from Popular Literacy Intervention Approaches

Lessons from Popular Literacy Intervention Approaches

​​Literacy interventions are best when they are:

  1. applied early. 
  2. part of the education system where everybody is assessed for their current skill levels.
  3. backed by the Science of Reading, or structured literacy.

Now, let’s look at some examples of current literacy interventions. Lessons can be borrowed from them and applied to early literacy interventions. 

 

Structured Literacy Intervention

Structured Literacy Intervention is based on structured literacy instruction, which is a comprehensive and evidence-based system of explicit, systematic and sequential instruction. It provides sample intervention activities. 

The term was first popularized by the International Dyslexia Association, but now is widely recognized as the application of the science of reading method. It not only helps those with Dyslexia, but all students in general. 

Is it fit for an early literacy intervention? 

Absolutely. It supports point #3 above, in that it is based on the science of reading. Dyslexia has been receiving a lot of attention lately, and it explains why certain students are prone to being underachievers in reading. 

 

Short-term interventions

Short-term interventions consist of one-to-one teaching for the lowest performing grade one students. Students receive 30-minute lessons each day for 12 to 20 weeks from a trained literacy specialist. 

There is evidence to support that such targeted interventions work to raise the performance levels of the lowest performing Grade 1 students. 

Is it fit for an early literacy intervention? 

It’s nice that it begins in Grade 1, but it would be even better if it started in kindergarten. Also, it leaves out other students who may or may not have been identified as needing intervention in Grade 1. Furthermore, this approach does not follow through in the later grades to ensure that there is no fade out of skills. 

It’s one of the most popular reading intervention approaches used today. It would be further strengthened if it was more inclusive, integrated into daily reading instructional practices and followed up in the later grades. 

 

Intensive Reading

Intensive Reading teaches small groups of students various reading techniques for 40 minutes a day. Parents are also asked to commit to do their own homework, which includes reading to their child every night.

Teachers have also noticed that these students in this approach are more engaged with reading and are excited to participate in the reading lessons. They are benefited from the continuous reading reinforcements that happen both at home and at school. 

Is it fit for an early literacy intervention? 

It’s a good program with fantastic books, best used in group instruction methodology. It’s a fast-paced system designed to move students along quickly. But in the early years, individualized instruction is just as important, and certain skills may need to be worked over and over until they are perfected.

 

The Ideal Early Literacy Intervention Program

The Ideal Early Literacy Intervention Program

It’s time to look at new solutions to the old issue of struggling readers. The recent Right to Read report released by the The Ontario Human Rights Commission was an eye-opener for many. What can be done differently? 

It’s our hope that this article presents some new ideas to you about how to ensure that more early interventions are inclusive towards all. Current approaches can be improved to ensure that there is sufficient planning and foresight for every young learner.

We have written more on this topic. If you liked reading this piece, you may also want to check out Building Early Literacy Skills in Schools. Thoughtful Considerations.

Interested in an inclusive early intervention framework case study? Let us know. 

Early Learning Student Successes From 3 Amazing Case Studies.

Sprig Learning develops early learning programs for preK to Grade 3. 

Student success is often top of mind for educators and administrators. 

Other early learning outcomes are all indirectly related to the main outcome of student achievement.

Given the high gravitas student success carries, Sprig Learning covers case studies highlighting what works in a school setting to achieve equitable results for all students.

It may be easier to raise the performance standards for some students, but it’s a much more difficult task to ensure all students receive the academic support they need. 

Whether it’s creating the right vision for early learning, or writing a high-performing school improvement plan, Sprig aims to present what has worked for schools.

This article is the latest installment of our early learning school improvement series. We present 3 case studies from the US that resulted in early learning student success. Each case is followed by a takeaway. 

 

Concerted Effort for Early Learning Student Success

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Credit: Google Earth. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School.

In the early 2000s, Houston Independent School District, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Sacramento Unified School District were able to reduce the achievement gap for disadvantaged and minority students. 

They demonstrated an upward trend of overall student achievement for at least three years.

Improvement was consistent and the rate of improvement was higher than in comparison districts. 

All three of these large urban school districts shared commonalities regarding what worked for them in improving student success.

They were able to align curricula with state standards and translate these standards into instructional practice.

In particular, attention was paid to the lowest performing schools to help them with resources, teachers and administrators. 

Data from early and ongoing assessments were provided to educators and principals to help identify both student and teacher weaknesses, so improvements could be made.

Rather than making all changes at once, the reforms started at the elementary grade levels.

There was also a high degree of shared accountability between the board and superintendent of student success. In each case, vision and goals were refined jointly and the relationship was lengthy.  

 

Systematic and Acute Planning for Better Student Results

There were so many things done right at these three school districts. At the heart of it all was directed planning.  

It was decided from the beginning that the goal would be to improve the assessment scores of those students at the lower end of the achievement distribution.

Every other decision was made in support of this ultimate goal. 

The alignment between the board and the superintendent was ensured from the beginning, to solidify the vision.

The standard of content and instruction were raised that would benefit the students once the changes were made.

On a day-to-day level, the frequent usage of assessment data came into practice, which really helped educators identify students in need of greater support.

From top to bottom, the plan was created and executed to accomplish the set goal of reducing performance disparity.

 

Partnering for Early Learning Student Success

Andover Public Schools

Credit: Andover Public Schools

Andover Public Schools was able to decrease the share of K–2 students scoring below benchmark on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment by ten percentage points for the 2018-2019 school year. 

DIBELS is a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of literacy skills. 

In that same school year, there was a 14% decrease in out-of-district placements. An out-of-district placement occurs when it is determined that a student needs more intensive support than can be provided in the district. 

Andover partnered with the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute of Health Professions, to develop literacy micro-credentialing coursework throughout the first half of the school year. There were 25 Instructional Assistants from 5 elementary schools that were selected.

The training included ten hours of instruction on leading literacy interventions. It also consisted of structured observations of both advanced and struggling readers.

 

Training Paraprofessionals

Andover Public schools realized that their educators needed more support in providing the type of specific interventions that were required to help struggling readers. 

Such help was ensured very smartly through a collaboration with a local institution, so certain members of the early learning workforce could be appropriately upskilled. 

Seeing the success of involving the instructional assistants, Andover will continue to measure students’ growth in literacy over time, to deploy the right resources to services involving paraprofessionals.

It’s important to partner with the right organizations who have the capacity to train specialists who are adept at doing a particular task. They greatly help teachers in assisting those students who demand more attention. 

 

Involving the Whole Community for Early Learning Student Success

Sunflower County Consolidated School District.

Credit: Google Earth. Sunflower County Consolidated School District.

The community in Indianola, Mississippi was able to increase the rate of kindergarten readiness by nearly 25%, despite struggling with lack of access to resources and intergenerational poverty. 

There is an assessment level that predicts whether a student will be reading at grade-level by the end of the third grade. From 2014 onwards, there was an upward trend of the percent of students entering kindergarten who met or exceeded this assessment threshold. 

This was accomplished by working with the Indianola Promise Community to create better early childhood programs and services in the area and the local school district.

The Early Head Start Child Care Partnership program’s Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®1) scores from different teachers were analyzed to identify teachers making the most gains with their students.

(CLASS®1) is a PreK teacher-child observation instrument used to assess preK children. 

These high-quality teacher-child interactions were studied for modeling purposes. 

The strategic use of data to align early childhood strategies continued into elementary school. The Sunflower County Consolidated School District in Indianola had to build the culture of using data at the classroom level. 

The district created a tracker that each teacher, principal, superintendent, school could use.

The data from this tracker was used to identify students who needed extra support. Targeted interventions were subsequently personalized to meet students’ needs. 

The school district also regularly sent data cards home to families and provided activities to help parents interpret the data. 

 

A Joint Effort Between Early Learning Programs, the School District and Families.

What happened in the community of Indianola is a classic example of involving the whole community to be more child centric. 

By sharing data between the early learning programs, the school district, and the parents, it became easier to track student progress as they moved through the education system.

 

Early Learning Student Successes You Can Replicate

Early Learning in Student Success

These case studies all demonstrate that it is indeed possible to ensure school readiness, achieve greater scores and reduce the performance gap by taking the right actions. 

Sprig Learning was developed particularly for early learners. 

In line with these case studies, assessment is a big part of what we do, where every data point is collected for a particular purpose. Literacy specialists and intervention specialists use our products. We also involve the whole community in what is a holistic approach to early learning. 

To learn more about how you can bring these ideas into life, give us a shout. 

Improving Student Achievement in Early Learning [Findings From Over 30 Schools and 3 Case Studies]

Sprig Learning is a purpose-built company that aims to provide every child a fair shot at success. Doing so requires the cooperation of many — administrators, teachers, parents, etc.

In order to best serve all learners, there should be a needs assessment conducted by school districts followed by school improvement plans that are written in accordance with the discovered needs.

By assessing what is working versus what is not, an action plan for school improvement can be set in motion. 

Information unearthed during a needs assessment can be very circumstantial while also specific.

But some findings can be quite predictable yet general as well, such as the need to support teachers and the need to improve student achievement. 

It’s the meeting of, or addressing of, such needs that often becomes a head-scratcher.

But with the help of case studies, doubts and unclarity over improving student achievement can be cleared. 

In this article, we look at three examples of the type of actions taken to improve student achievement in early learning.

These are great examples because they include not just one, but an assortment of actions that have delivered results. 

Sprig Learning unpacks it all below, organizing the findings into themes where appropriate.

 

Creating the Right Learning Climate

Creating the Right Learning Climate

Credit: Abc 7 Chicago

The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research conducted a study on 6 elementary schools in Chicago Public Schools. Three of the schools had improving Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) Scores, while three of them had declining or flat ISAT scores. The ISAT (now discontinued) measured achievement in both reading and math from grade 3 to grade 8. 

The schools with improving ISAT scores shared the following traits. The names were anonymized in the case studies. 

The findings provide an insight as to what can be done to achieve higher learning gains on standardized tests.

The lessons congregate around two themes — individualizing student goals and systematizing approach to meeting goals. 

 

 

Individualizing Student Goals

Differentiating instruction is the first step of the personalization of instruction. It usually refers to differentiating by groups of students. 

For example, in the case studies, the staff identified different tiers of support for student groups. 

Tutoring programs were made available for students who needed extra support. Counseling was made available for students with attendance issues. 

But beyond differentiated group instruction, a culture had been created to support and nurture each and every student at an individual level, without constraining any of the existing resources.

The staff encouraged students to set their own learning goals. Learning was very personalized where students took ownership over what they learned and met the goals they set for themselves. 

Indeed, activating early learners by getting them to own their learning is one of the suggested best practices of formative assessments, a type of assessment used widely by educators across North America. 

If anyone steered off track with lower grades or missed assignments, teachers met with the students and parents to find out what’s happening. 

There were also homeroom teachers in place to make interventions after observing a student and their behaviors across the different classes. 

In the Sprig Learning platform, it’s possible to filter down to the individual level, where a history of assessments and activities completed can be seen for any student. 

 

Systematizing Approach to Meeting Goals

The expectation for schools in the case studies, was for every student to reach high academic levels. 

The staff met in grade level teams to set growth targets in reading, math and attendance for the year. 

Teachers and administrators collaborated to monitor progress towards goals by regularly meeting in grade-level and vertical-planning teams.

Administrators helped educators break down the data by student, classroom, and grade level. 

The Sprig platform also allows teachers, staff and administrators to filter data by classroom and grade, facilitating grade-level and vertical-planning meetings.

Even where leadership was decentralized and educators were given more freedom to take actions best suited to help their students, there was some sort of mechanism in place to ensure progress was being made.

At regular intervals (every 5 weeks, in one example), the principals or instructional coaches looked at student progress reports to identify trends. In grade-level meetings, teachers are asked to explain their choice of assignments. Coaches would provide feedback to teachers on their assignments.

Teachers would also get together to give each other advice about how to help students. 

Though collaboration time and preparation time were scheduled, teachers would often meet before and after school and during lunch breaks to discuss such matters.

Lack of time for educators is often cited as one of the major challenges in early learning. Even in success stories, it’s seen that teachers have to improvise work hours in order to accomplish everything that they want to. 

It helps to have a platform that keeps all student data in one place, and makes that platform available to all educators and professionals who consult on a certain student’s learning. 

It certainly speeds up things in getting everyone on the same page when it’s time to discuss learning needs, thereby saving valuable time for all educators involved. 

 

Adopting a More Balanced Approach to Early Learning

Balanced Approach to Early Learning

The educational approach has a great impact on classroom instruction and student learning. 

The kindergarten year especially, can influence an early learner’s expectations for school. It can also shape their attitude towards learning. 

In a study conducted in a large urban school district (location anonymized), it was found that kindergarteners from low-income schools (24 schools in total) spent more time on reading, mathematics and non-instructional activities than students from high-income schools. 

The latter category of students, however, were more physically active and had more freedom to choose their learning activities. 

Educators teaching students from low-income households spent more time on academics, employing a more didactic instruction approach. 

Compared to students from high-income households, disadvantaged students had less access to center-based, hands-on learning experiences. 

Such findings are crucial to unpack and understand, because they potentially speak to an inherent bias that early learners from low-income households require a different approach to learning.

Rather, the standards of high-quality early learning should be the same everywhere, and include centers and play-based activities. 

Challenging academic instruction does not have to replace student-initiated activities. The latter can be more playful and naturally engaging. 

What should differ is the personalization of education, where various types of support can be provided to students based on their interests, needs and strengths. 

When there is a curiosity for learning, support can be provided to enrich the learning experience. In order to keep this curiosity alive, however, a more balanced approach should be adopted.

Sprig Learning uses a holistic approach to learning that gives importance to academic, social, physical and spiritual development.

Such a balanced approach early on, keeps the joy and curiosity of learning alive, and pays dividends later in the form of learning gains. 

 

Using Data to Create a Collaborative Culture

Data Collaborative Culture

The Maryland State Department of Education did a cross-case analysis of some of its schools that were classified as high-performing or high-growth for disadvantaged student groups, such as students from low-income families, minority students, and English language learners. 

The performance or growth of such performance, was measured using the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the Maryland School Assessments. 

Looking at five elementary schools (Chillum, Bel Air, Chadwick, James. H Harrison and North Frederick) from four different counties, many common characteristics were identified. 

Sprig has organized these discoveries sequentially into two groups— Finding and Doing. 

 

Finding

  • Ongoing data-based decision making.
  • Creation of collaborative school cultures with shared responsibility for student achievement.
  • Organization of teachers into collaborative work groups that meet regularly..

 

Annual assessment data and formative assessments data have to be integrated into the teaching practice. 

Teachers and other instructional staff have to regularly meet to discuss the data to adapt instruction as necessary.

The above points are thus all involved in finding out the current situation, by looking at data, but also setting up practices to discuss such data.  

This is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot to think about when making data-informed decisions in early learning. 

 

Doing

  • Revision of curriculum and instructional approaches. 
  • Adoption of new instructional materials.
  • Provision of multiple interventions, including tutoring and extended day academic help.
  • Summer school programming.

 

It’s very important to have multiple intervention strategies, including extended day academic help and summer school programming, as mentioned in the points above. 

These strategies are extremely beneficial to those students who need it most. Insights from Spig Learning’s holistic assessments identify the students who would be more suited for such learning opportunities. 

Zooming out to the whole class, there could be enough evidence gathered to merit exploring a new instructional approach or adopting new instructional materials. 

Incorporating such practices could raise the quality of education offered in early learning, by making the learning content more grade-rigorous, but also matching the particular learning style of the students. 

Closing the loop and taking these actions would all stem from first creating a collaborative culture using data. 

 

Improve Student Achievement in Early Childhood Education

Improve Student Achievement in Early Childhood Education

Improving student achievement remains a topmost priority for all school districts and schools in North America. 

The findings from these three case studies, comprising over 30 schools from multiple school districts, provide invaluable insight. 

Sprig hopes that these shared experiences from school districts across the continent are useful to you. 

We’ve helped schools create the right climate, culture, and balance in approach to improve student learning. 

To book an initial strategy session, contact us