The effectiveness of a technologically-facilitated classroom-based early reading intervention: The targeted reading intervention

Amendum, S. J., Vernon-Feagans, L., & Ginsberg, M. C.

This research brief summarizes a study which evaluated the efficacy of a classroom-teacher-delivered reading intervention for struggling readers called the Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI), designed principally for kindergarten and first-grade teachers and their struggling students in rural, low-wealth communities. The TRI was delivered to schools and teachers via an innovative Web-conferencing system using laptop computers and webcam technology in each classroom.

Introduction

Researchers have acknowledged that children who struggle with reading acquisition in early elementary school tend to fall behind their counterparts in reading and other academic areas without intervention (Alexander & Entwisle, 1988; Foorman & Torgesen, 2001) and many are likely to remain behind their peers as they progress through their schooling (cf. Juel, 1988). Researchers and practitioners generally agree that early intervention is critical for children who are struggling with reading acquisition and do not seem to benefit from traditional classroom instruction (e.g., Clay, 1993; Morris, Tyner, & Perney, 2000). Although struggling students may demonstrate reading improvement when provided intervention through one-to-one tutoring by reading specialists, paraeducators, or volunteers (Elbaum, Vaughn, Hughes, & Moody, 2000), this tutoring instruction often takes place outside of the regular education classroom. Such pull-out models can present difficulties for instructional continuity between the regular education classroom and the intervention setting, and may also limit the classroom teacher’s opportunities to take on additional reading instructional opportunities with students who have the greatest reading instructional needs.

Context

Teachers from poor rural areas are often geographically isolated and therefore less likely to have access to enhanced professional development and instructional practice (Government Accountability Office, 2004).  However, rural communities provide a strong base for successful educational programs because of the more stable, supportive, and safe home/neighborhood environments that promote development (Vernon-Feagans, Gallagher, & Kainz, 2009). By capitalizing on the strengths of rural communities, successful, cost-effective educational interventions can encourage educational achievement for struggling learners. One important possibility for overcoming contextual barriers is to provide professional development at low cost through educational technology, such as the TRI where laptop computers and webcams were used in the regular classroom for distance coaching from remote, highly-qualified literacy coaches.

Design & Results

Seven schools from the southwestern United States were randomly assigned to experimental and control conditions in a cluster randomized design. All children in the study (n = 364) were administered a battery of standardized reading skill tests in the fall and spring of the school year. Intent-to-treat analyses were conducted to estimate mixed models of children’s 1-year growth in Word Attack, Letter/Word Identification, Passage Comprehension, and Spelling of Sounds. Results showed that struggling readers from experimental schools outperformed those from control schools on all spring reading outcomes, controlling for fall scores.

Discussion & Implications

The results from this study support previous work that suggested struggling readers in early elementary school can be supported by specific focused interventions. A considerable amount of research, funding, and instructional time has been devoted to creating and implementing such early reading interventions for students who need them (e.g., Clay, 1993; Morris, et al., 2000). Results from the study also show that the TRI can help students who are in high-need, isolated rural areas where children often have low-income backgrounds and teachers often have less access to traditional professional development.  Finally, this study is among the first to demonstrate that professional development and one-on-one literacy coaching can effectively be delivered via webcam technology in schools.

Amendum, S. J., Vernon-Feagans, L., & Ginsberg, M. C. (2011). The effectiveness of a technologically-facilitated classroom-based early reading intervention: The Targeted Reading Intervention. Elementary School Journal, 112, 107-131.