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The Impact of the Implementation of a District Literacy Plan on Student Achievement on the NWEA-MAP Reading Assessment

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The Impact of the Implementation of a District Literacy Plan on Student Achievement on the NWEA-MAP Reading Assessment

Abstract

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Table of Contents

Abstract………………………………………………………ii

Dedication…………………………………………………….iii

Acknowledgements………………………………………………iv

Table of Contents………………………………………………..v

List of Tables………………………………………………….vii

List of Figures…………………………………………………viii

Chapter 1: Introduction…………………………………………….1

Background………………………………………………3

Statement of the Problem……………………………………..5

Purpose of the Study…………………………………………5

Significance of the Study……………………………………..6

Delimitations……………………………………………..6

Assumptions………………………………………………7

Research Questions…………………………………………8

Definition of Terms…………………………………………9

Organization of the Study…………………………………….11

Chapter 2: Review of the Literature…………………………………..12

Reading Instruction in America………………………………..14

Literacy Instruction………………………………………..15

Balanced Literacy………………………………………….16

Summary……………………………………………….17

Chapter 3: Methods……………………………………………..18

Research Design…………………………………………..20

Selection of Participants……………………………………..21

Measurement…………………………………………….23

Data Collection Procedures…………………………………..26

Data Analysis and Hypothesis Testing……………………………27

Limitations………………………………………………28

Summary……………………………………………….29

Chapter 4: Results………………………………………………30

Descriptive Statistics……………………………………….32

Hypothesis Testing…………………………………………33

Additional Analyses………………………………………..34

Summary……………………………………………….35

Chapter 5: Interpretation and Recommendations………………………….36

Study Summary…………………………………………..38

Overview of the Problem……………………………….39

Purpose Statement and Research Questions…………………..40

Review of the Methodology……………………………..41

Major Findings………………………………………42

Findings Related to the Literature………………………………43

Conclusions……………………………………………..44

Implications for Action…………………………………45

Recommendations for Future Research……………………..46

Concluding Remarks………………………………….47

References……………………………………………………49

Appendix (or Appendices)…………………………………………50

Appendix A. Approval to Obtain and Use Data……………………..51

Appendix B.  Data Utilization Agreement………………………..52

Appendix C.  Title…………………………………………53

Appendix D.  Baker University Institutional Review Board Request………54

Appendix E.  Baker University Institutional Review Board Approval……..55

List of Tables

Table 1. Name of First Table………………………………..13

Table 2. Name of Second Table………………………………14

Table 3. Name of Third Table………………………………..65

Table 4. Name of Fourth Table……………………………….72

List of Figures

Figure 1. Name of the First Figure……………………………..23

Figure 2. Name of the Second Figure……………………………24

Figure 3. Name of the Third Figure…………………………….55

Figure 4. Name of the Fourth Figure……………………………62

Chapter 1

Introduction

With the increasing need to ensure that students are literate and capable citizens of society, there have been several attempts in school districts, especially urban school districts, at implementing literacy programs to help students become literate and competitive in a global society (Project Manager of Literacy Lab Classroom Cohort and District Literacy Advisory Council, personal communication, November 1, 2017).  It is imperative to the future of our students that we strengthen literacy instruction, support teachers and administrators through professional development, and promote higher levels of learning.  Rauscher’s 2012 audit found that nearly 26% of students read below the basic level and do not have the ability to understand texts at their respective grade levels.  These students are unprepared for the literacy demands of postsecondary settings and the workplace.

Due to ever-changing academic expectations, instructional methods continue to evolve.  A goal that remains consistent is the teacher’s desire to teach each student effectively and guide students to academic success (Project Manager of Literacy Lab Classroom Cohort and District Literacy Advisory Council, personal communication, November 1, 2017).  As a result of the push to equip students with the necessary literacy skills, numerous programs and initiatives have been implemented.  As this focus on literacy spreads across the nation, schools require more teachers qualified to detect and correct deficiencies in reading, comprehension, vocabulary, and writing.  The literacy movement has been many years in the making; therefore, it is paramount to have quality instruction that facilitates the learning of necessary literacy skills (Rauscher, 2012).  This instruction involves engaging in authentic reading activities, which has been shown to improve student achievement (Rauscher, 2012).  Rauscher (2012) suggested that these instructional strategies must be evidence-based, rigorous, and focused specifically on building students’ knowledge by improving their reading comprehension through different texts, explicit vocabulary instruction, and direct and explicit comprehension strategies.

Background

District A is a Midwestern urban district consisting of 21,937 students, who represent a diverse community with the following demographics: 29.0% African American, 49.6% Hispanic, 11.5% White, and 9.9% of other ethnicities and races (2016-2017 District A Report Card).  Of these students, 85.4% are identified as economically disadvantaged based on their free/reduced lunch status. In addition, 40.63% of the students are English Language Learners (ELL) and 14.0% are students with disabilities. The district’s vision, developed in 2012, is to become one of the top 10 school districts in the nation. (District A website, 2012).

To achieve this vision, an external district literacy audit was conducted during the 2011-2012 school year to determine the district needs and goals.  District A implemented a literacy initiative in 2013 called the District Literacy Plan (DLP) to ensure that all students develop as literate citizens. (District A Literacy Plan, 2013-2016).  The district is in its fifth year of implementation of the DLP.  A second literacy audit was conducted in 2016 to determine the impact of: Programs, initiatives, activities, and goals implemented as a part of the DLP.  The district had previously implemented various reading programs to help students improve their academic achievement, but nothing had been implemented as consistently as the DLP (Project Manager of Literacy Lab Classroom Cohort and District Literacy Advisory Council, personal communication, November 1, 2017).  Student performance in the district has plateaued.  Reading scores have also dropped since its rise in the 90s.  The district implemented Balanced Literacy, which encompasses components such as, Animated Alphabet, Guided Reading, as well as, Fountas and Pinnell (F&P) benchmark assessment, a reading fluency test administered two times during the school year.  Despite the implementation of the above reading programs and the expectations, the assessments utilized to measure reading achievement were not consistent.  The district commissioned two external literacy audits (2012 and 2016) conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) that delineated the limited resources and defined 16 recommendations that the district should implement to achieve their vision, mission and goal (AIR, 2016).

The elementary schools in District A implemented the Big 3 Plus in 2012, which also included knowing the students as readers, Interactive Read-Alouds (IRA), and Monitored Independent Reading (MIR), for which the district purchased classroom library sets.  Another important aspect of the DLP is effective district and building professional development on IRA and Reading Workshop, which incorporates teachers knowing their students as readers, Guided Reading, or small group reading, and Writing Workshop.  Underlying the DLP is the adoption of the Marzano Model of Instruction, which integrates goals, scales, learning goals and learning targets, as a way to help teachers become effective educators, while simultaneously implementing the DLP (District A website, 2012).

Because of the literacy audit in 2012, the superintendent put together the District Literacy Advisory Council to help review the audit data and identify next steps (Project Manager of Literacy Lab Classroom Cohort and District Literacy Advisory Council, personal communication, November 1, 2017).  The council members were given the following charge:

Literacy is not an option.  It is a civil right.  Our students deserve to have access to a quality life.  Key to a quality life is proficiency in language, numeracy, and in the arts. As a district, there is no more important responsibility that we must embrace to ensure every student develops as a literate person. (District A, 2013-2016)

At the start of the 2016-2017 school year, the District Literacy Advisory Council was disbanded due to District A incorporating the literacy components along with components of the Marzano Model of Instruction to streamline or combine all components into one plan that addressed literacy along with learning conditions.  The district decided not to have a separate council and instead determined that the literacy work should be incorporated within the Marzano Model of Instruction (Project Manager of Literacy Lab Classroom Cohort and District Literacy Advisory Council, personal communication, November 1, 2017).

Statement of the Problem

Based on the audit conducted by AIR (2012) students in District A are lacking necessary literacy skills to be successful in their academic careers.  After the initial literacy audit conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in 2012, District A implemented an initiative, the DLP, that pushed for research and evidence-based literacy practices that would help to improve student achievement and required revising reading and writing instructional practices (Project Manager of Literacy Lab Classroom Cohort and District Literacy Advisory Council, personal communication, November 1, 2017).  After five years of implementation, data had not been analyzed to determine if these initiatives had significantly affected reading growth and reading proficiency (Project Manager of Literacy Lab Classroom Cohort and District Literacy Advisory Council, November 1, 2017).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to examine the overall impact of the District Literacy Plan on fifth grade students on student reading achievement as measured by NWEA-MAP reading scores from 2014-2017.  The second purpose of this study was to investigate whether the effects of the District Literacy Plan (DLP) were different for fifth grade student groups based on student gender, socio-economic status, race, English language linguistic acquisition (ELL), and special education status.

Significance of the Study

Literacy instruction plays a huge role in ensuring that students can read and write and therefore be more well-rounded global citizens.  The focus of this study was on literacy instructional practices that have been shown to directly affect growth in reading.  The current study could help District A, and similar districts, determine if such a literacy initiative supported reading growth over five years of implementation.

Delimitations

Delimitations are under the control of the researcher and are used to clarify the boundaries of the study and narrow the focus of the research (Roberts, 2004).  The following delimitations helped employed for the study: (a) the sample included one public, urban school district in Kansas; (b) reading achievement was based on NWEA-MAP 5th grade reading scores prior to implementation of the DLP from 2010-2013, and after implementation of the DLP from 2014-2017.

Assumptions

“Assumptions are postulates, premises, and propositions that are accepted as operational for purposes of the research” (Lunenburg & Irby, 2008, p. 135).  One assumption was that all District A elementary classroom teachers at the 30 elementary schools included in the study were provided with district professional development regarding the DLP initiative that was consistent in quality.  A second assumption was that all teachers implemented the DLP with fidelity.  A third assumption was that all teachers provided the same quality of instruction to their students.  A fourth assumption was that all students were motivated to perform their best on the assessments.  A fifth assumption was that the data were correctly entered into an Excel spreadsheet.  Another assumption would be that the NWEA-MAP assessment is a valid test instrument and returns reliable scores.

Research Questions

The following questions guided the purpose of this study:

RQ1.  To what extent was there an overall difference in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading gain scores between 5th grade students enrolled during the academic years of 2009-2010 through 2012-2013, which was the three years of data prior to implementation of the District Literacy Plan (DLP) and 5th grade students enrolled during the academic years of 2013-2014 through 2016-2017, which was the three years of data after implementation of the DLP?

RQ2.  To what extent were the differences in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading gain scores between 5th grade students enrolled during the academic years of 2009-2010 through 2012-2013, which was the three years of data prior to implementation of the DLP and 5th grade students enrolled during the academic years of 2013-2014 through 2016-2017, which was the three years of data after implementation of the DLP impacted by gender, socio-economic status, race, ELL status, and special education status?

Definition of Terms

The following terms were defined for the investigation:

Literacy.  Traditionally defined as the ability to read and write this now encompasses proficiencies in other competencies such as numeracy and technology. According to a report by UNESCO (2005), the common definition of literacy “is that it is a set of tangible skills, particularly the cognitive skills of reading and writing…” (p. 149)

Animated Alphabet.  An early literacy program that utilizes a multisensory approach to teach foundational reading, writing, and language skills.

Guided Reading.  An instructional approach that is a component of the Balanced Literacy Framework utilized to teach reading that involves a teacher working with a small group of students who demonstrate similar reading behaviors who read similar leveled texts.  This approach allows students to interact with text in various manners, such as reading and talking about reading and writing, which allows the teacher to observe student reading behaviors and respond accordingly. The ultimate goal is for the students to apply reading strategies to read independently (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).

Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (F&P BAS).  A reading assessment that determines the reading level of a student by allowing teachers to listen to students read while observing their behaviors to quantify specific reading behaviors that will then allow teachers to plan reading instruction (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).

Interactive Read Aloud (IRA).  A teaching strategy that involves teachers using a specific text to engage students in listening and talking about the text, which therefore helps the students to develop a better understanding of the text.  This allows teachers to teach a specific technique used by the author, build vocabulary, and demonstrate fluency.  IRA is another component of the Balanced Literacy Framework (Miller Burkins, 2018).

Monitored Independent Reading (MIR).  A strategy that allows students to self-select books to read independently at their reading level for a set block of time. This helps students practice or improve a reading skill demonstrated previously by the teacher, with the overall goal to help students develop a love of reading, improve stamina, and increase vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency (Wiencek, Vazzano, & Reizian, 1999).

Reading Workshop.  An instructional practice component of the Balanced Literacy where teachers model a specific reading strategy sometimes combined with MIR to allow for practice of the strategy taught in the mini-lesson and conferring with students on reading skills and strategies (Children’s Literacy Initiative, 2017).

Writing Workshop.  A Balanced Literacy component that allows teachers to demonstrate or model a specific writing method in a mini-lesson. Students have time to write and practice the method, while the teacher conferences with a student or small group of students on writing skills, and finally students have an opportunity to share their writing (Children’s Literacy Initiative, 2017).

Marzano Model of Instruction.  A model for effective teaching that many districts refer to when evaluating teachers developed by Robert Marzano, a leading educational researcher who has authored or co-authored several books and articles.  This model outlines teaching strategies and gives both teachers and administrators tools to become more effective. This is a tool that measures the success of highly effective teaching (Learning Sciences International (LSI), 2018).

Northwest Evaluation Association –Measures of Academic Progress. (NWEA-MAP, 2016).  An adaptive assessment system utilized in many school districts to measure student progress or growth in the subjects of reading and math, helping teachers to target instruction and administrators to make well-informed system-wide decisions. For this study the reading assessment was utilized.

Balanced Literacy.  According to Wiencek, Vazzano, and Reizian (1999) A Balanced Literacy program includes components such as Interactive Read

Aloud, Guided Reading, Shared Reading, Interactive Writing, Shared Writing, Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop and Word Study.

Organization of the Study

Chapter 1 included an introduction of the study, the background information for District A, and the problem statement.  The purpose statement, significance, delimitations, and assumptions of the study were also provided.  The research questions were identified and terms related to the study were defined.  Chapter 2 presents a review of the literature that provides an overview of the history of developments in reading and best practices in reading and literacy.  In addition, research on Balanced Literacy, effective literacy practices, and Guided Reading is presented.  Chapter 3 presents the research design, population and sample, sampling procedures, instrumentation, measurement, validity and reliability, data collection procedures, data analysis and hypothesis testing, and concludes with the limitations of the study.  Chapter 4 includes the descriptive statistics associated with the research, as well as the results of hypothesis testing and additional analyses when appropriate.  Chapter 5 focuses on the findings related to the literature, conclusions, implications for action, and recommendations for future research.

Chapter 2

Review of the Literature

The purpose of this study was to determine if a literacy initiative implemented in an urban school district affected student achievement in reading scores and abilities.  This chapter includes a background of the research regarding the history and implementation of literacy programs.  Chapter two also includes research that has been conducted to determine the impact of literacy programs.  This chapter also presents the literature relevant to instruction and reading achievement.  First, a historical perspective on reading instruction in American society is presented.  Second, research-based methods of reading instruction are discussed.  Next, the components of literacy that have been shown to be effective are discussed.  The methods included are aligned with the literacy instruction components of Balanced Literacy.

Reading Instruction in America

 

From the colonial era through the mid-1800s, there was one common belief about how to teach children to read: teach them to decode (to break the alphabetic code through use of exercises or practice with letters and sounds) and give them material with which to practice those letters and sounds (McGill-Franzen, 2000).  Horace Mann, the secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education in the mid-1800s, suggested that educators should teach students to recognize whole words on sight, rather than requiring them to use the arduous process of decoding (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). Over the next 100 years, children read from books such as the Dick and Jane leveled readers that contained primarily the words they had already been taught to recognize. Upon encountering a word that had not been taught, children were told to use picture or context clues to determine its meaning. The emphasis on teaching students to recognize whole words automatically and to use clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words became known as the whole language approach (Pressley, 2002). By the 1960s, workbooks accompanied by skill-based lessons became more elaborate (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983).  Teacher manuals became more sophisticated and were as long and detailed as the student text.  The basal material was still controlled by a script for teachers as students read stories and practiced skills.  For example, in the early readers, vocabulary was sequenced in a specific order of decreasing frequency of word usage.  The basal texts still supported the whole language characteristics.  Additionally, students were viewed solely as receivers of knowledge, which meant that teachers where the ones who doled out knowledge to students while they, the student, absorbed as much information as possible.  Silent reading and comprehension activities were on the rise; however, comprehension was still viewed as the product of decoding and listening (Pressley, 2002).

By the mid-1960s, President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act brought funding to schools through a program called Title 1 (McGill-Franzen, 2000).  This program focused on the right of each child to learn to read.  Americans were optimistic that new methods would be available about teaching reading.  The United States Office of Education funded an elaborate study known simply as The First-Grade Studies (McGill-Franzen, 2000).  Although classroom research demonstrated students who were taught phonics had a stronger foundation for reading than children who were not taught phonics, there was still not one instructional method that prevailed (Slavin, Lake, Davis, & Madden, 2009).  There was considerable variation among classroom teachers employing a particular method of reading instruction, this varied delivery of instruction as well.  Thus, Pressley (2002) established reading instruction is more likely to improve as a result of improved training of teachers, improved in-service training programs, and improved school learning climates, rather than implementing changes in instructional materials.

In the 1970s, researchers began to systematically study reading in a scientific manner (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983).  Before this time, researchers did not feel the need to look at the effects of reading instruction because school was not considered a significant difference maker in students’ reading ability (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was administered for the first time in the late 1970s.  At that time, policymakers began to acknowledge the scope and sequence of reading problems in American society (McGill-Frazen, 2000).  In the late 1980s, literature became a major component in reading curriculum (Langer, 2002).  The concept of book clubs engaged children in the reading of literature in the same way as adults engage one another in voluntary reading circles.  Such structures were found likely to increase participation and motivation as students learned to appreciate the text they were reading (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).

As whole language emerged, basal texts became the catalyst for dramatic changes in the 1990s.  Whole language was considered one of the most significant movements in reading curriculum since the 1960s (Pressley, 2002).  The whole language approach to reading instruction put comprehension, literature-based reading, integrated instruction, and process writing into practice.  This movement was quickly confused with the mentality that whole language meant that all students get the same instruction through the same text, in fact, the idea or actual practice was quite different.  Teachers were to observe children during reading, diagnose what they needed, and arrange learning to allow students to discover those insights in reading and writing (Pressley, 2002).

Literacy Instruction

In education, scientific-based research has just recently begun to affect decision-making.  A science-based approach can reduce the influence of politicians, parents, school board members, and others and increase the influence of reading experts and teachers (McGill-Franzen, 2000).  Identifying reading strategies that are research-based is useful in seeing meaningful results.  Students become more knowledgeable, capable, and informed citizens when their instruction is based upon research (Langer, 2002).  If teachers want to accomplish national reading goals, they must utilize effective research-based reading practices with their students.  “The first years of school establish an essential foundation of literacy that enables all future literacy achievement” (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017, p. 2).  When students are in intermediate grades, teachers must use their knowledge of primary grade foundational skills to further develop literacy abilities to serve students throughout their lifetime.

Debates regarding the issue of reading instruction have been ongoing for decades, maybe even centuries. According to McGill-Franzen (2000), a century ago the debates were about ABCs versus analytic phonics.  The debate has always been about the emphasis during the earliest stages of formal reading instruction (Pressley, 2002).  Since the publication of the Report of the National Reading Panel in 2000, most policy documents, assessment frameworks, and reading programs have subscribed to the idea that there are “five essential components” in reading instruction programs that most likely foster success across the range of student abilities (McGill-Franzen, 2000). According to Fountas and Pinnell (2017), the five essential components in reading instruction that make up a balanced literacy approach are phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.  Balanced literacy approaches acknowledge that there is not a single way to help students obtain reading growth.  In addition, in a balanced literacy environment, teachers made reading and writing more personal and meaningful. Cultures and customs of students may be considered to help facilitate a love for reading (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).  Studies supported that balanced literacy instruction had a positive effect on student reading growth in comparison to basal instruction (Wiencek, Vazzano, & Reizian 1999).

When words are spoken, they are the combination of sounds in speech.  Phonemic awareness is the awareness of speech sounds, and the student’s ability to manipulate the sounds to form words (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).  Phonemic awareness influences outcomes in word recognition and comprehension for all students.  Instruction in phonemic awareness stimulates language learning, which will help students build meaningful associations so that they can make sense of how to best use phonics when reading (Pressley, 2002).  Explicit instruction in phonemic awareness is beneficial for most beginning readers, particularly those who have reading difficulties and English Language Learners (ELL) (Pressley, 2002).  Students who can read and pronounce words by identifying a sound with each letter have the foundation for literacy.  The goal of phonics instruction is to help students see the relationship between letters and sounds.  An effective phonics program includes direct teaching of the sounds associated with letters.  Like other reading components, phonics cannot be the entire reading program.  Instead, phonics should be integrated with other elements of reading instruction.  Focusing only on phonics helps students understand how to decode but lack the comprehension for what they read (Pressley, 2002).  Phonics is an important part of reading, but it is not the ultimate goal for readers.

When students begin to read quickly and accurately, they become readers that are more fluent. Fluency is the accurate and rapid reading of letters, sounds, words, sentences or passages (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).  In addition, fluency is not merely speed.  Fluency is also a combination of several factors – rate or speed, phrasing, expression, intonation, and pacing (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).  When readers are focused on decoding an unknown word within the text, they begin losing the meaning of the passage.  Fluency is considered a critical component to a balanced literacy program (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). Teachers facilitate reading fluency by providing students with opportunities for repeated oral reading.  Teachers can facilitate fluency growth by ensuring students are reading texts that are matched to their ability.  In addition, systematic practices should be in place in classrooms to monitor student fluency progress. According to Fountas and Pinnell (2017), fluency develops from practice. Fluency instruction may be the missing element in reading instruction for many reading teachers.

Pressley (2002) found that students need many opportunities for developing a rich vocabulary through listening, speaking, reading, and writing in a cohesive manner.  Vocabulary knowledge influences both comprehension and fluency.  Receptive vocabulary is a valuable component of reading instruction.  As students begin to understand word meanings and how words are placed in text, they also begin to strengthen their comprehension of the text.  Students develop receptive vocabulary when they listen to others speak and begin using similar words themselves.  In addition, reading vocabulary is developed when students are reading text themselves and becoming familiar with words (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).

There is a significant discrepancy in vocabulary knowledge among learners from different socio-economic groups from toddlers to high school students (Roskos, Christie & Richgels, 2003).  Beginning with young readers, teachers can make a vast difference in vocabulary knowledge.  Fountas and Pinnell (2017) stated that teachers should teach words and their meanings, provide students with opportunities to practice with key vocabulary, practice with word knowledge, and read and listen to texts.  Teachers who provide systematic and explicit instruction in vocabulary will see large improvements in their students’ proficiency on state-mandated accountability assessments. Teachers need to teach words that enhance vocabulary choices, not reiterate words that students already know.  Proven criteria for vocabulary instruction are as follows: provide multiple exposures, use the vocabulary words in interactive discourse, and teach vocabulary so that learning one word leads to learning many words (Pressley, 2002).

Reading comprehension involves accessing prior knowledge, understanding vocabulary, making inferences, and linking key ideas (Pressley, 2002).  Comprehension does not come through rote instruction. Instead, it requires the simultaneous use of a series of strategies that enables students to understand text.  For example, students must be able to construct meaning during and after reading, understand facts and opinions, and draw logical conclusions.  The most effective methods for teaching students how to comprehend text are those that foster active response, either written or spoken (Roskos, Christie & Richgels, 2003).  The teacher’s role is to ensure that students participate actively prior to reading, utilize strategies and skills during reading, and then provide time for students to reflect on the author’s intent and bring their own meaning to the text.  For reading programs to be adopted in many states and districts, thorough and informed instruction surrounding each of these five components is required.  In a balanced literacy program, teachers should focus and practice the five components of literacy in context (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).  In the development of lifelong readers, it is imperative for students to know how to apply reading skills to make meaning from the text. According to Langer (2002), readers must know how to use their reading strategies and understand how the reading strategies fit into the bigger picture of literacy.

Balanced Literacy

According to Pressley (2002), an effective literacy program would incorporate phonemic awareness instruction, systematic phonics instruction, guided oral reading to increase reading fluency, a variety of vocabulary instruction methods, comprehension strategies instruction, and professional development for teachers surrounding all the above mentioned components.  There are many elements of effective literacy instruction that suggests that teacher effectiveness is an essential element of any successful literacy program (Pressley, 2002).  Elements that make a successful literacy program are: guided reading, independent reading, read-aloud, conferencing, and discussion about the text. This evolves around ensuring that the environment is full of literacy rich texts.

The balanced literacy approach adopts the idea that reading achievement is developed through effective instruction using various approaches that allow for both teacher and student autonomy, with the overall goal of implementing skills-based, which emphasizes the use of phonics and meaning-based practices, which emphasizes reading comprehension, to improve overall literacy instruction (Frey, Lee, Tollefson, Pass, & Massengill, 2005).  Therefore, effective literacy instruction should include a balance of both phonics instruction and a whole language approach in order to teach both skills and meaning.  Balanced literacy originated in California in 1996 as a call to action in order to increase low reading scores (Frey et al., 2005).  The initial intent of balanced literacy was to focus on skills-based and meaning-based teaching during a set block of time, usually between 90 minutes to 120 minutes.  This was to ensure that there was a systemic and explicit teaching of a phonics foundation to increase comprehension as well as exposure to literature based experiences that allowed students to interact and connect with literature (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).  Frey, Lee, Tollefson, Pass, and Massengill (2005) maintain that a successful balanced literacy program must combine a balance of direct instruction by the teacher, which includes modeling of skills, strategies, and processes) and student-centered activities.  Thus, essential components of literacy would reflect the principles of effective learning and teaching.  An effective balanced literacy program should include various elements of community, authenticity, integration, modeling, and student autonomy and connection to the literature (Frey et al., 2005).

Frey et al. (2005) also suggests that the best way to achieve this goal is to emphasize the importance of reading and writing by providing a specific uninterrupted block of time to allow for sustained reading every day.  By creating a positive collaborative classroom environment as well as setting high yet realistic standards and expectations for all students, and incorporating reading and writing across the curriculum, this will ensure academic gains in reading achievement.  This helps to set the foundation for successful literacy programs that start at home and include the community and library as well as structured classroom lesson plans and the use of literacy activities, such as read alouds, guided reading, shared reading and independent reading and writing.

Wiencek, Vazzano, and Reizian (1999) suggests that a balanced literacy program is a program that may seem quite simple yet in implementation is quite complex because of the teacher’s ability to execute the program with fidelity in order to increase student achievement in reading.   Oral discourse is an essential component because it creates a way for students to interconnect with the literacy structure.  There are no packaged quick fixes to improving literacy education.  Each student has specific individual instructional needs that can be addressed with a variety of interventions (Pressley, 2002).  A balanced literacy approach contains many of the components that researchers have previously addressed, thus this is the main reason that many districts have adopted this particular approach.

Summary

This review of the literature served as an overview of the historical perspective on reading instruction in American society, research-based methods of reading instruction, and effective models of literacy instruction.  Also included were the components to reading instruction and balanced literacy. An introduction of research-based practices in reading instruction was also included. Chapter 3, the study includes research design, population, sample, and sampling procedures including the instrumentation and measurement tools. In addition, an articulation of the study’s data collection procedures is provided, as well as a description of the study’s data analysis, hypothesis tests, and limitations.

 

Chapter 3

Methods

District A implemented a District Literacy Plan (DLP) in the academic year of 2012-2013 to increase student proficiency in reading.  However, District A was fully implementing the DLP without assurance that it was positively affecting student reading growth.  The purpose of this study was to determine the overall impact of the DLP on on 5th grade student reading achievement as measured by fall to spring NWEA-MAP reading gains scores.  The second purpose of this study was to investigate whether the effects of the literacy initiative on NWEA-MAP reading gains scores were different based on student gender, socio-economic status, race, ELL, and special education status.

This chapter presents the methodology used to conduct the research study.  Included is a description of the research design, population, and sample studied.  The data collection process is described with a detailed explanation of the procedures followed during the study and the data analysis and procedures for hypotheses testing are introduced.  The chapter concludes with the limitations of the study.

Research Design

The research design utilized for the study was quantitative.  According to Creswell (2009), a quantitative research design best addresses the problem by identifying the factors or variables that influence an outcome.  The dependent variable, growth in reading, was measured by the change or difference in NWEA-MAP Reading scores from fall to spring for 5th grade students enrolled prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the District Literacy Plan (DLP) and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of the DLP.  The independent variables in the study were the time intervals before and after implementation of the DLP as well as the gender, socio-economic status, race, ELL status and special education status of students.

Selection of Participants

The researcher used purposive sampling.  A purposive sample is a non-probability sample that is selected based on characteristics of a population.  Purposive sampling is also known as judgmental, selective, or subjective sampling (Roberts, 2004).

The participants in this study were 5th grade students enrolled in District A, an urban school district, prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the District Literacy Plan (DLP) and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of DLP.

Measurement

Northwest Evaluation Association -Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA-MAP) Reading scores were utilized to calculate reading achievement growth in the form of fall to spring gains scores, which was used as the dependent variable for the research questions.  The NWEA-MAP Reading assessment is administered to students three times during the school year: fall, winter, and spring. The NWEA-MAP Reading assessment is not timed.  It is an adaptive assessment used to measure student reading proficiency.  Students take the assessment electronically and then receive a score after finishing the assessment.  The NWEA-MAP test uses a Rasch unit scale (RIT) to interpret test scores (Converse, 2016).  The RIT score correlates directly to the curriculum in each subject area.  RIT scores range from about 100 to 300.  Students in the third grade typically start at the 180 to 200 level RIT range and progress to the 220 to 260 RIT level by high school (Converse, 2016).  There is an overall RIT score for the reading assessment, but other RIT scores are given for categories that are assessed in reading such as Literature, Informational Text, and Vocabulary Acquisition and Use.  For this study the overall RIT score is utilized.

Validity and reliability.  According to Lunenburg and Irby (2008), “Validity is the degree to which an instrument measures what it purports to measure…most standardized achievement tests have good content validity…[it is] determined by expert judgment” (p. 181).  According to Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA, 2013), the NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test is valid in the way that it measures students’ achievement status in accordance with the state standards. It is also an adequate predictor of student success on state assessments.  The Rasch Unit (RIT) or numerical value represents the most difficult question that a student is capable of answering 50% of the time.  According to Shudong, McCall, Hong, and Harris (2013) the content of NWEA-MAP is one of the most important sources of evidence of test validity in achievement tests because all items match the quantifiable sections of a set of academic content standards both in breadth and depth of content and knowledge. The factor structure is directly related to the construct validity interpretation of the test, and validity is one of the most important considerations when evaluating a test. The factor invariance across grades is an essential requirement for use in vertical scaling and interpretation of student growth based on the test scores (Shudong et al., 2013).  Shudong et al. found that the results show the consistency and reasonableness of interpretation of the MAP RIT scale across grades and academic calendar years for the different states.  The marginal reliabilities of tests across 50 states and grades are consistently in the low to mid 0.90’s (NWEA, 2013).

Data Collection Procedures 

Permission to used district data was obtained through an emailed request to the Director of Evaluation, Research and Assessment of District A (Appendix A).  The Data Utilization Agreement was completed on February 1, 2018 and emailed it to the Director of Evaluation, Research and Assessment and School Board (Appendix B).  On February 16, 2018, the Director of Evaluation, Research and Assessment informed the researcher that the research proposal was approved.  Permission was granted to use the archival assessment data if there was no reference to the district’s name or any identifying information of students (Appendix C). The Baker University IRB request form and submitted it on July 15, 2018 (Appendix D).  The IRB approval form was approved on—(Appendix E).

On February 16, 2018, the Director of Evaluation, Research, and Assessment emailed the quantitative data from the school database.  The information was archival data on elementary students enrolled before implementation of the DLP for 2010-2013 and data for 2014-2017 after implementation of the DLP.  Student names were deleted and instead each observation was assigned a number.  Data was kept on password protected Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet on a password protected computer.

Data Analysis and Hypothesis Testing

Data from the NWEA-MAP reading scores from fall to spring for students prior to implementation of the DLP (2010-2013) and after implementation (2014-2017) were analyzed to address each research question in this study. Multiple statistical analyses were used to test the hypotheses. The type of analysis used to address each research questions was determined by the variables. The gain scores were calculated by subtracting the fall MAP scores from the spring for all students, then variables categorized the student gain scores as either before DLP implementation or after.  The general statistical procedure, a multivariate factorial design was used to test interactions.  “Factorial designs are created by combining every level of one independent variable with every level of another” (Keppel &Wickens, 2004, p. 195).  This allows the effect of two independent variables on the dependent variable to be tested separately, but can also test the effect of the combination of the independent variables on the dependent variable.

RQ1.  To what extent was there an overall difference in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading gain scores between 5th grade students enrolled prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the District Literacy Plan (DLP) and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of the DLP?

H1.   There is an overall difference in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading gains scores between 5th grade students enrolled prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the DLP and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of the DLP.   The first two-factor analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to test H1 and H2.  The two categorical variables used to group the dependent variable, NWEA- MAP fall to spring reading growth, were DLP implementation status (prior to, after) and gender (female, male).  The two-factor ANOVA can be used to test three hypotheses including a main effect for DLP implementation status, a main effect for gender, and a two-way interaction effect (DLP implementation Status X Gender).  The main effect for DLP implementation status was used to test H1.  The level of significance was set at .05.

RQ2.  To what extent were the differences in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading gains scores between 5th grade students enrolled prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the DLP and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of the DLP impacted by student gender, socio-economic status, race, ELL status, and Special Education status?

H2. The difference in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading growth between 5th grade students enrolled prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the DLP and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of the DLP is affected by gender.

H3. The difference in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading growth between 5th grade students enrolled prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the DLP and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of the DLP is affected by SES.

The second two-factor ANOVA was conducted to test H3.  The two categorical variables used to group the dependent variable, NWEA- MAP fall to spring reading growth, were DLP implementation status (prior to, after) and SES (Free and Reduced Lunch/Full Price).

H4.  The difference in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading gains scores between 5th grade students enrolled prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the DLP and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of the DLP were impacted by students’ race status.

H5.  The difference in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading gains scores between 5th grade students enrolled prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the DLP and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of the DLP were impacted by students’ ELL status.

H6.  The difference in NWEA-MAP fall to spring reading gains scores between 5th grade students enrolled prior to implementation (2010-2013) of the DLP and 5th grade students enrolled after implementation (2014-2017) of the DLP were impacted by students’ Special Education status.

A series of multivariate factorial analyses of variance (ANOVA) using two independent categorical variables were conducted to test the research hypotheses.  In each two factor ANOVA, one of the two categorical variables used to group the dependent variable, NWEA- MAP fall to spring reading gains scores was DLP implementation status: before implementation during 2010-2013 (coded as #) or after implementation during 2014-2017 (coded as #).  Two-factor ANOVAs can be used to test three separate hypotheses including the main effect for DLP implementation status, the main effect for the other independent categorical variable entered in the analysis gender, and the two-way interaction effect of (DLP implementation status (before or after) and all levels or groups represented by the other categorical variable.  The first analysis conducted in the series of two-factor ANOVAs included gender (female and male) as the second categorical variable. The main effect for DLP implementation status was used to test H1.  The level of significance was set at .05.

Limitations

Lunenburg and Irby (2008) defined the limitations of a study as factors that could influence the results of the study but are out of the control of the researcher.  Factors that may have an effect on student reading achievement are school absences, student motivation (both internal and external), and the appropriateness of their reading instruction.  Another factor that could influence the results of the study is to what extent the teachers in District A implemented the DLP with fidelity.  A final limitation of the study is that the students were administered the NWEA-MAP reading assessment with their classroom teachers as their test examiners which could potentially limit the study if discrepancies existed in the testing environments.

Summary

Chapter 3 provided an overview of the quantitative research study.  The research design was explained in detail, and the population and sample were introduced.  NWEA-MAP reading assessments and gains scores were explained.  In addition, the research questions were outlined along with the hypotheses and data analysis.  In Chapter 4, the results of the hypothesis testing are presented to determine to what extent the implementation of the DLP impacted 5th grade students’ reading growth.

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