Chapter 1: Introduction
Substantial research approves on the necessity for early interventions for students at risk of low performance, and this intervention should begin as early as possible, preferably the first month of the first semester (Cooke, Kretlow & Helf, 2010). According to a study by Wanzek and Vaughn (2007), students on extensive reading interventions performed better than those on limited reading interventions. Agreeably, an intervention should assist in identifying learners who have academic difficulties soon enough, to be able to develop a targeted strategy that will help them perform better. However, Cooke, Kretlow and Helf, (2010) assert that several kindergarten programs delay the onset of reading interventions to later months of the academic year, and thus allowing the students to less than the required minimum of 8 months, for the interventions. Reading interventions are applied in various kinds, for instance 100 book challenge, leap frog products, trophy series, and Fundations series. Additionally, reading interventions are availed in almost all kindergarten programs.
A lot of research is dedicated on the importance of reading interventions, and the major problem addressed is when this reading interventions need to begin. However, there is limited research evaluating specific reading interventions, and how well they prepare kindergarteners for first grade. The significance of this study is in evaluating a specific reading intervention-Fundations series- in regard to qualifying kindergarteners for first grade. Fundations is a kindergarten phonemic awareness, spelling and sound program, as based on the Wilson Reading System Principles, developed in 2002 (WWC, 2007). Fundations acts as a prevention program for reducing failures in reading and spelling.
Nevertheless, some studies show that most phonological programs for reading interventions, like Fundations, have not succeeded in reducing the learning difficulties in all the students and prepare them for first grade (Loeb, et al. 2009; O’Connor et al. 2009). This study will evaluate the outcome of the reading intervention-Fundation- in urban and suburban schools in Ohio where the program is implemented. This is because it is important to establish if socioeconomic backgrounds contribute to how a reading intervention benefits a kindergartener. The limitations to this study include the scarce availability of data concerning the efficacy of Fundations as an interventions strategy. Phonological programs relating to Fundations will be applied in the discussion.
Statement of the problem
Why aren’t kindergarteners prepared for first grade once they leave kindergarten, if Fundations was used as an intervention?
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the reading intervention Fundations series, and its impact on preparing kindergarteners for first grade, in urban and suburban schools in Ohio. The concepts focused on the study are the accomplishment of Fundations, the kind of training that teachers receive in order to use the Fundations program in their classrooms, and the significance of using early reading interventions for children.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
Stark (2001) gives an account of Early Identification and Intervention (Early ID) program operated by the suburban Reading Community Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio. The program served 1400 students in two elementary schools, and is said to be carried out by trained unpaid volunteers who can be grandparents, parents and other community members. The Early ID focused on the pre-literacy skills, and its purpose was to involve kindergarteners in activities that related to pre-reading and pre-writing rather than teaching directly teaching the reading skills. Stark (2001), notes that the suburban program got national recognition and enabled the district to get presentation invitations as well as requests for copying the program, although scholarly criticism was also unavoidable. The program was initially developed to address the shortcomings that some children possess, and which can deter them from developing skills required for reading and writing. These include poor perceptual and fine motor skills, inefficient oral and listening skills, and limited knowledge of the basic concepts of language that should be followed to have comprehension skills. Stark (2001), importantly points out on how kindergarten and first grade teachers have developed school-based methods to deal with motor skills deficiencies and shortcomings in concepts of basic language among disadvantaged children, but this children have continued to perform poorly in academics, an indication that the intervention was ineffective. On the other hand, the community program Early ID gives a systematic process that is able to identify the learning needs of the student, and instructional strategies are developed to specifically meet those needs. The intervention continued for not less than a year on the student, and positive outcomes were achieved. This is an indication that specific and extensive interventions need to be implemented for the intervention program to produce a positive outcome on the student. Stark (2001) implies that students who participated in the program developed essential skills that helped them achieve high scores on tests as compared to those who did not participate. However, this study was limited by the small number of students who did not participate in the program, and therefore it was not confounded that Early ID had a direct impact on the students’ score. Nevertheless, the study well demonstrates that when interventions begin as early as preschool time, enhances the future academic success of the students. It is suggested that Early ID should be part of the kindergarten curriculum because of its beneficial outcome to the students’ learning capabilities.
Another study whose findings reinforce that of Stark (2001) is by Musti-Rao and Cartledge (2007) where the significance of early reading interventions has been stated. This study focuses on the groups that are at risk for reading difficulties, and these include students from poor socioeconomic backgrounds and, students with disabilities. Musti-Rao and Cartledge (2007) assert that students from rich families in urban areas are in a position to develop better phonemic awareness, due to exposure from early childhood as compared to their urban counterparts form low socioeconomic backgrounds who lack the same exposure because of poverty. The authors further assert that for children who lacked the primary intervention due to hindrances factors like poverty, then, secondary intervention methods should be applied which includes aspects like supplemental reading. For non-responsive students, a further tertiary intervention is required to such that the intervention is tailored to meet the needs of a particular student. This study is important in evaluating the kind of interventions needed in urban and suburban schools in Ohio. Especially when the socioeconomic background is put into consideration, and also considering that most students in the suburban areas are likely to be less exposed to the available interventions as compared to their urban counterparts. Also, when assessing primary, secondary and tertiary intervention methods, it is found out that primary intervention taking place in early childhood has the best outcome to the future of the student. However, the focus needs to be on the kind of primary intervention that will benefit majority of the students as far as learning outcomes is concerned. According to O’Connor (2000), most kindergarten teachers are not able to identify children with disabilities even when using the early intervention programs for phonological development until later in the fourth grade. A wider case occurs in the urban schools where students from various social, economic and ethnic backgrounds preside. This is because common intervention programs are applied in kindergarten but the programs do not carter for the needs of all the students. Where early intervention programs fail to meet the needs of the students in kindergarten the school involved faces a general poor performance (O’Connor, 2000). This is despite the availability of secondary intervention in past the elementary grades. Interventions are therefore important when began early because the students have a better grasping capacity, and learn faster through memorable events. The kindergarten is a stage where the foundation of the students should be laid for they will use this foundation to build on the rest of the academic and social life.
Further explaining the phenomenon of early intervention in relation to geographical location is a study by Durham and Smith (2006) who compare the early literacy capability of students in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. Their findings revealed that there is a direct relationship between the area that the student lived and the early reading ability, but the major controlling factor is ethnic and socioeconomic background. The population’s social structure determines its norms, attitudes and behaviors, and this relates to the students capabilities for early learning as per the demands of the school. Urban and suburban areas differ in resource distribution, which determine educational disparities for instance the kind of colleges, preschools and libraries. The economic status of a district will therefore determine the kind of support given to the schools in the district and how the students will benefit from the available interventions. For instance, Macdonald and Figueredo (2010) illustrate the support given by the Ministry of Education in Central East Canada, to junior and senior kindergarteners who demonstrate oral language deficits. The strength for the support is on the realization that not all students attending kindergartens come with the literacy abilities that form the basis for learning in the future grades. This is after analysis of the social structure where it was realized that socioeconomic challenges affected children from various backgrounds. There is need for educational equality but with the varying conditions it is unlikely that this can be totally achieved. Other than the available school resources in determining the interventions, the students’ attitude and behavior also play a major role as an effect of the location of residence. Durham and Smith (2006), point out on the different learning outcomes between students in urban and suburban areas. Urban areas are associated with aspects like divorce which disrupts family unions and affects the child’s psychology, alcohol and substance abuse, high levels of crime, and juvenile delinquency among others. Such problems directly relate to poor educational performance and reduced ability in early reading intervention. Scott and Teale (2009) based their study in determination of the urban student’s learning needs through interviewing literacy educators. The urban learner needs were identified as emotional exposure, support and attitude changes towards education. All the same, the teacher has the responsibility of bringing out and maximizing the best out of the student through the intervention applied. The intervention to be provided was one that encompasses all these needs of an urban student, where motivational interventions prevailed widely. On the other hand, suburban areas are characterized by stronger family ties, community support, social capital and isolation from the negative urban influences, which should lead to better academic outcomes, yet literacy failure, is noticed in most cases. It is thought that lower socioeconomic status in the suburban areas is the major cause for delayed literacy. Nevertheless, teachers are likely to assume prior literacy ability among the children, and therefore don’t significantly apply the specific reading intervention s early enough, and the students’ incapability is only noted way past the second grade (Durham & Smith, 2006; O’Connor, 2000). Despite a phonological awareness and intervention programs for language in a kindergarten class, a study by Connor, et al. (2009) reveals that the students did not improve academic capabilities past second grade. The study group was kindergarteners from socioeconomic disadvantaged backgrounds. The intervention improved their literacy skills up to second grade but there were no measurable differences between these students and those who were not exposed to the intervention program. This indicated that individual specific as opposed to whole-class directed interventions are required with students who were not fortunate to develop the literacy skills earlier in life. Ironically, these students started developing weaknesses past grade 2, an indication that further research needs to be done on the specific interventions required.
Importantly, assisting disadvantaged children to obtain the basic literacy skills does not only depend on the early intervention, but on quality of the instructions given. Woodward and Talbert-Johnson (2009) identify some of the classroom strategies that teachers apply to meet the literacy needs of the students. A reading specialist for elementary students has been termed as a person with a critical role presence in assisting the students with their reading outcomes. Furthermore, a study by Savage, Carless and Erten (2009) indicate a positive outcome for students with a teaching assistant on the phonological program. However, it is not realistically demonstrated how the kindergarten programs should incorporate the reading specialist as a core element in the reading development. This is in regard to the authors’ observation that as much as some students will totally benefit from the reading intervention in kindergarten, others would still require pursuing the instructions if they are to have better performance, and therefore demands the perpetual role of the reading specialist. This is in line with the previous study of O’Connor (2000) which showed that some students lost the literacy skills as they proceeded further in the grades, and therefore other interventions need to be recommended. The US Department of Education promises resources to help in the interventions programs in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiative (Kamps & Greenwood, 2005) However, as Woodward and Talbert-Johnson (2009) argue, resources could be available, but how should the interventions be implemented to ensure that all the children overcome their shortcomings? Dominguez et al. (2010) recommends the identification of the individual student’s learning requirements and organizing the class programs such that the needs of the specific students are met. Reading and writing difficulties not only negatively impart the student’s academic life, but also the social and emotional life (Pavri, 2006). This is because reading and writing forms channels through which to express the individual self.
Commercial organizations have taken advantage of the tremendous need for early childhood intervention programs, and have therefore developed some of these programs. Commonly available ones include the leap frog products, the trophy series, the 100 book challenge and the Fundations series. Zeece (2008) implies that children graphic books and toys, among other child characters contribute to the child’s literacy development, although ignored in some aspects. This then relates to poverty situations where children from poor backgrounds may not be able to afford some of these products that stimulate the cognitive development. Zeece (2008) demonstrates the varying perception of children towards artifacts as they developed, for instance, from the chewing the object, to a stage where they develop a significance interest on the components of the object. Individual perception of events enable a student’s unique recollection of what was taught in the past (Walter, 2010), and this is an indication of the importance of graphics, in teaching the literacy skills early in children. Instructions encompassed in the reading intervention products focus on the areas that the students need to develop. According to Guthrie et al. (2007), children have a relatively low motivation for reading, and hence ingenious strategies of aiding them develop the desire progressively, must be applied. The authors suggest a motivational sequence model that teachers can apply in nurturing the child’s desire to read.
When using fundations as a learning intervention, the teacher is trained to be persistent in delivery of the intervention. The teacher should make the student to repeat pronunciation of the words until they are correctly pronounced. This involves explicit instructions with multiple opportunities for practicing (Wanzek & Vaughn, 2007). The feedback should be given immediately and errors corrected until the student is able to illustrate the correct phonological. Some of the leap frog products are sound enabled to provide the student with a further opportunity to practice. These interventions are important in class, because the student not only gets to learn about the reading and listening skills, but they also motivate a further learning through their enjoyable nature. Savage and Carless (2008) recommend a combination of the traditional teacher assisted instruction with grapheme-phoneme. Loeb et al. (2009) assert that reading interventions have to be modified from time to time, in order to suit the needs of all the students for better outcomes. When students report to school for the first time it is always expected that they have already developed the basic literacy skills. However this is not always there case because of the differences in backgrounds and situations that shape individuals differently. Moreover, a reading intervention that works for one student may not work for another, and hence the need to identify the students’ needs early enough in order to strategize on the required intervention.
Considering a literature based and language arts program like Fundations, it is expected that students all students will develop literacy skills, necessary for successful performances in grade 1 and subsequent grades. However, this is not usually the case, as kindergarteners are not prepared for first grade once they leave kindergarten, if Fundations was used as an intervention. Does the urban and suburban orientation of the students affect the early learning intervention? How can Fundations series be improved to enable the kindergarteners prepare for first grade?
Chapter 3: Methodology
The participants for this study will be kindergarteners from an urban and suburban school in Ohio where Fundations is used as a reading intervention, as well as the first grade teachers from the school. 50 kindergarteners between ages 4 to 6 years will be selected randomly from each school category, with the help of the teachers’ nominations, and this will be students taught with the aid of the reading intervention Fundations.
Standardized rating scales that can measure the students’ learning capabilities will be used. Phonological awareness skills will be measured using SPAT-R developed by Neilson (2003). The SPAT-R provides a diagnostic perspective of phonological awareness skills developed in early literacy, (O’Connor, et al., 2009) hence will assist in validating the data. MSGST developed by Oerlemans & Dodd (1993) will be used to assess the spelling ability. To incorporate the assessment of all the literacy skills, subsets from the WRMT-R like Word Identification, Passage Comprehension and Word Attack will be used (Loeb et al. 2009).
A correlation approach methodology will be used while applying a predictive design. The study seeks to find out the relationship between successful early intervention and socioeconomic background among the students. The study will first begin identifying a school in the suburban Ohio and another in the Urban Ohio where Fundations is used as an intervention program. After identification of the schools, permission will be requested for the study to be carried out, and any ethical issues will be sorted. The study will take place at the selected schools, where kindergarten children will be tested by the grade 1 teachers. The testing is scheduled to last for 20 minutes per student. Since, the study is to take place in two different locations; different days will be used, one day for the Urbarn School and one day for the Sububarn School. Each student will be tested individually on word Phonemic awareness skills, letter-sound knowledge, reading comprehension and non-word spelling.
A multilevel modeling analysis will be the preferred analytical approach because it allows for examination of outcomes over time. The components of literacy will be identified in relation to the Fundations intervention. Analysis will be done based on standard tests and the required expectation of the students’ learning ability in relation to age, and the duration of time on which student has been taught with Fundations strategy. Raw scores will be converted to standard scores and percentiles for the comparisons to be made. ANOVA will be used to test the hypothetical significance of the research questions.
The study limitations include the ability to maintain the came cohort for follow up may be difficult, especially in incidences where there may be children dropping out of school. Moreover, sampling can be based on biasness, especially when it is the teachers selecting the students to be tested. The study can also be limited by cost, since it is expected that in addition to travel and experimental expenses, all the students and teachers should be provided for lunch since the activity takes most part of the day, and fatigue has to be eliminated. Generally, the findings will not be generalized for all the schools whether in urban or suburban, and this is because differences exist in various urban and suburban locations.
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