Teacher Quality -- Reading and Writing Research

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Current information about this program can be found under the Education Research program.

Haskins Laboratories
Investigator: Susan Brady
Mastering Reading Instruction: A Professional Development Project for First Grade Teachers

The 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicates that at fourth grade, 36 percent of students were not able to read at the basic level, meaning they could not read and understand a passage from an age-appropriate children's book. Although much is known about how to teach children beginning reading skills, many teachers are not aware of some elements of reading instruction that are key to helping students avoid common reading problems. At the same time, some research shows that teachers who learn about effective reading strategies include those strategies in their instruction and student achievement improves. The purpose of this project is to study how a research-based professional development program with mentoring may enhance classroom teachers' ability to teach reading in first grade.

The research team is focusing on five research-based elements of reading development: (1) phonological awareness, (2) the alphabetic principle and code, (3) fluent and automatic word-recognition, (4) vocabulary, and (5) comprehension. In the first year of the project the researchers are developing measures of teacher knowledge and practice related to these five elements. Over the next two years the researchers are providing professional development on teaching those elements to 80-120 first grade teachers in schools serving children from low-income backgrounds. The research team is comparing the efficacy of the professional development program, and the relative value of running the program for one and two years, and including within it a mentoring component, to standard practice. Researchers are randomly assigning schools to experimental and control groups. During year two, the experimental group is receiving the professional development program, including mentors assigned to individual teachers. The control group of teachers and their students are being assessed for knowledge, skills, and practices, but are not being provided any professional development that is different than what they would normally get. In year 3, the control group is receiving the same year 2 professional development received by the experimental group during year 2, but without the individual mentor support, and the experimental group is continuing to receive the professional development program with mentoring for a second year. All teachers attending professional development workshops are receiving materials on research-based methods of reading instruction that they can apply in their classrooms. In the fourth year, the researchers are: (1) evaluating whether the professional development program changed teacher knowledge; (2) testing whether changes in teacher knowledge affect changes in teacher practices, in turn influencing student reading achievement; (3) describing what happens during professional development training; (4) examining the difference that having support by mentors makes to the professional development program; and (5) evaluating the relative contribution of a one- vs. a two-year professional development program.

Instructional Research Group
Principal Investigator: Russell Gersten
Teacher Quality Study: An Investigation of the Impact of Teacher Study Groups as a Means to Enhance The Quality of Reading Instruction for First Graders in High Poverty Schools in Two States.

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of teacher study groups as part of professional development for first grade reading teachers. Some people argue that teacher study groups can build communities of learners by requiring teachers to work together to address common goals .Reading First includes the use of professional development with teachers in low-performing schools to improve low-income students' reading achievement. Although solid research evidence supports the core classroom practices and instructional assessment principles of Reading First, some of the specific professional practices under consideration for use as part of the Reading First initiative lack such evidence. Research has not yet used rigorous techniques to test these practices sufficiently across a variety of settings (e.g., schools, States and districts).

The project researchers are carrying out studies in two California school districts and two Pennsylvania districts serving a high percentage of English Language Learners and students receiving free and reduced lunch. These two states represent contrasting policy contexts for Reading First reforms: - California is more directive and specific than Pennsylvania about which professional development activities Reading First schools can use. The researchers are randomly assigning schools to two conditions, one that uses teacher study groups as part of professional development, and the other that does not. Both groups of schools are receiving the same number of hours of professional development focused on reading instruction. About 100 teachers and 2,000 students are participating in this study. The researchers are evaluating the impact of the different professional development approaches on teacher knowledge, observed teaching practice, and student reading outcomes. They are also comparing the ways in which Reading First activities are implemented in the two different state policy contexts.

University of Michigan
Principal Investigator: Joanne Carlisle
Identifying Key Components of Effective Professional Development in Reading for First-Grade Teachers and Their Students

The purpose of this project is to compare three models of professional development for first grade teachers of reading. According to the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 69% of fourth graders are not reading at a proficient level. The Reading First Initiative of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is designed to improve students' reading skills by requiring professional development for teachers who teach reading. The success of this initiative depends on being able to choose professional development models that actually increase teaching skills and student reading achievement. This project is producing evidence to help school districts select effective, affordable models.

The researchers are comparing the efficacy of a three-component professional development delivery model currently used by Michigan Reading First schools to two alternative models, one that focuses entirely on teacher knowledge and another that focuses on teacher knowledge combined with student assessment training. The three components of Michigan's Reading First model are: (1) teachers' language and literacy content knowledge, and reading pedagogical knowledge; (2) teachers' ability to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching through the assessment of student progress; and (3) teachers' participation in sustained collegial discussions about reading. In schools that are eligible for Reading First but not yet funded, the researchers are randomly assigning the teachers to a teacher knowledge model or to a teacher knowledge and student assessment training model. The research team is examining those aspects of teachers' knowledge and background experience that best predict students' first grade progress in reading. The researchers are following the teachers for two years in order to study changes in their practices with two successive groups of children that may be due to the professional development. The study sample includes 40 school districts, 100 schools, 200 teachers and 6,000 students. Participating schools serve large numbers of struggling readers.

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Last Modified: 11/30/2006