Field Initiated Evaluations of Education Innovations Research Grant Program

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Chesapeake Research Associates, LLC Project Abstract
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Name of Institution: Chesapeake Research Associates, LLC
Principal Investigator: Mr. Michael Puma
Title: Evaluation of Writing Wings: Writing Instruction for Disadvantaged Elementary School Children

Purpose: The ability to write is fundamental and a skill that all children need for success in school. African American and Hispanic fourth grade students tend to lag behind white students in their performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), although those differences have diminished in recent years. The purpose of this project is to obtain evidence of the effect of Writing Wings, a writing instruction program that targets disadvantaged children in grades 3-5, which is a critical period for the acquisition of good writing skills. Writing Wings was developed by the Success for All Foundation. At the end of the project, the study will show whether implementing Writing Wings in a 20-school national sample of elementary schools improved the writing of disadvantaged students.

Setting: The research is being conducted in 20 high-poverty elementary schools from a national sample of schools that already have a relationship with the Success for All Foundation.

Population: At each school, two third-grade and two fourth-grade classes are participating in the study, for a total of 80 classes and approximately 1,600 students.

Intervention: The aim of Writing Wings is to enhance teachers’ skills and enable them to succeed at teaching their students to write through a combination of clear instructional goals, teacher modeling, and a cooperative writing process. The program teaches the types of writing required by state standards, emphasizes writing as a process, and addresses all levels of writing skills'content, process, organization, writer's craft, and mechanics. Heterogeneously grouped students work in teams discussing their work. The program includes ongoing professional development for participating teachers. The instructional program is already being used in a variety of low-income schools, but has not yet been subjected to rigorous evaluation.

Research Design and Methods: The study is a randomized controlled trial in which classes are randomly assigned within schools. One class in each grade level is randomly assigned to a treatment (Writing Wings) group or a control group. Children in both groups will be studied for two school years.

Control Condition: Students in the control classes receive whatever writing instruction is currently in place in their school.

Key Measures: Baseline data are collected in fall 2005 with follow-up data collected in spring 2006 and spring 2007. Data to be collected include student demographics, an assessment of students' writing ability (using standardized writing prompts and accompanying scoring rubrics), a brief assessment of their knowledge and ability to use writing mechanics, and student's reported writing confidence. Data will also be collected on the ongoing fidelity of the intervention instruction.

Data Analytic Strategy:The researchers will use HLM analyses to examine overall program impact on the writing ability of elementary students and the impact on demographic subgroups.

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Last Modified: 10/03/2005