Reading and Writing Education Research

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Arizona State University Project Abstract
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Current information about this program can be found under the Education Research program.

Principal Investigator: Maria A. Restrepo
RFA Goal: Development Project
Title: Vocabulary and Abstract Language Enhancement (VALE) to Improve Reading Comprehension in English Language Learners

Purpose: The number of English language learners (ELLs) in public schools continues to increase, and Latino children are now the largest minority group in the nation’s public schools. Among ELLs, Spanish speakers are the most likely to repeat grades in elementary and secondary school. In addition, in 2003, 56 percent of Latino fourth-graders scored at or below the basic level on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) reading assessment. To increase the likelihood of success in school of Latino students, schools must address these students’ reading skills, particularly their reading comprehension. Low vocabulary levels are found to be one of the primary correlates of reading comprehension difficulties among Latino children. The purpose of this project is to improve the reading comprehension of Spanish-speaking English language learners by developing a curriculum designed to improve the vocabulary and understanding of abstract language of these at-risk students during their kindergarten year. At the end of this project, the investigators also will have gathered empirical data on the influence of this intervention on the reading skills of the participating children.

Setting: This project is taking place in several elementary schools in a large southwestern city.

Population: Two cohorts of kindergarten children are participating in this longitudinal research project. A total of 400 kindergarten children are participating. All participating children are Spanish-speaking and qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The majority of the children have had no preschool education.

Intervention: This project is developing a new curricular intervention entitled Vocabulary and Abstract Language Enhancement (VALE). Two versions of the curriculum are being developed: one that is delivered only in English, the other that is delivered both in English and in Spanish. The intervention provides instruction in 10 vocabulary words a week for 20 weeks, and weekly instruction in four abstract language skills (inferencing, summarizing, predicting, and formulating questions).

Research Design and Methods: Working together with participating teachers, the research team is selecting vocabulary words to instruct and books to use during instruction. The researchers are developing an integrated intervention package ready to be used by kindergarten teachers beginning in Fall 2005. Kindergarten children are randomly assigned to one of three conditions: English-only VALE, English/Spanish VALE, or a control group. The intervention is being delivered during the hour in the school day reserved for “tutorials.” During tutorials all children receive academic help from educational specialists and volunteers in small groups. Kindergarten children who participate in the intervention in Year 1 will be assessed as first, second, and third graders. Children who participate as kindergartners in Year 2 will be assessed as first and second graders.

Control Condition: Control children receive regular tutorial instruction.

Key Measures: Children’s vocabulary, abstract language, phonemic awareness, and alphabet knowledge are being assessed using both standardized and experimenter-developed measures. Standardized measures of reading comprehension are also being administered. Both home and school environments are being observed.

Data Analytic Strategy: Mixed-model repeated measures analyses are being used to evaluate the impact of the two versions of the curriculum as compared to the control. Growth curve modeling is being used to determine if the growth in vocabulary and reading comprehension are differentially impacted by participation in different groups. Multiple regression analyses are being used to describe which language and early literacy skills predict reading comprehension performance in second and third grades.

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Last Modified: 11/30/2006