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Gains Found From Pre-K Literacy Program Based on RTI

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A new study of prekindergartners found that gathering information on children's skills and providing targeted interventions to those who need supports to learn, is a successful strategy that teachers could accurately implement.

The study is the first to look at a new approach to teaching pre-K students, called "Recognition & Response," which is based on Response to Intervention methods, said researchers at the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The researchers found that a target group of students who received language and literacy interventions made greater gains than their classmates at skills including: letter naming, vocabulary, sound awareness, and print knowledge. The target group made gains at the same rate as their classmates on other language and literacy skills, the study said.

The study also showed that pre-K teachers could successfully implement the approach with a 97 percent rate of accuracy. Also, 92 percent of the teachers reported that they would recommend the R & R approach to other teachers.

The study followed 353 4-year-olds in 24 child-care, Head Start, and public pre-K classrooms in Maryland and Florida. The pre-K teachers conducted universal screenings on every child throughout the year. The results were used to select a target group of four children in each classroom who then received a language and literacy intervention in a small group for 15 minutes a day for two months.

"We are encouraged by this significant finding about the efficacy of progress monitoring and tiered intervention in prekindergarten," said Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, the project's principal investigator. "We expect this to be the first of many findings in a growing body of research that will help the field of pre-K education more precisely meet the needs of young children."

5 Comments

Excited about early intervention. Thanks for the update!

L. Alcott

"A new study of pre-kindergartners found that gathering information on children's skills and providing targeted interventions to those who need supports to learn..."

I'm sorry to throw cold water on the subject, and perhaps I'm just not understanding how the 'information on children's skills' is gathered, or maybe I don't get how basic the skills are that are being observed, but I think sometimes we expect too much too soon. We're talking about literacy skills in PRE-K, right? There is a generally-accepted myth that ALL children learn at a gradual steady pace, so if a child has not acquired half the skills in half the time, then we are convinced (and we let the child know) that he or she is behind. Maybe some of them are just NOT READY.

My younger daughter didn't even know all her letters at the END of pre-k, but one year later, by the end of kindergarten, she was reading easy chapter books. By second grade she was in the top reading group (and now in 7th grade, she is addicted to reading, often reading 1000 pages a week.)

If the 'screenings' are done with any kind of formality, then those screenings have the potential to do more harm than good when a child who just isn't ready becomes convinced that he or she isn't good enough, and you end up basically having to do damage control.

MRM: I think that the flip side of your argument is that assessments (which might easily consist of very informal observations--I don't know what they are using) let us know what each child is ready to learn, and helps us to ensure that we are supporting them where they are, wherever they are along the continuum. In the context of the family, I think that we tend to do this more or less intuitively--observing, checking, challenging. In a classroom, or group setting, where it is easy to be overlooked if easy going, it makes sense to systematize the process to ensure that everyone gets the needed attention.

I think what is important here is to remember that literacy skills need to be taught in all content areas and throughout the grades. As with any other fine art, one develops better skills with continued practice. Students' reading levels can "level off" at any time, especially if they stop practicing the craft outside their school days, for a variety of reasons. Too many students dislike reading; thererfore, they don't practice it much on their own. That can have greater debilitating effects on test scores than some may think.

As it relates to this research I am in total support. My question is why wait for a child to fail before intervening or providing some form of support. In my opinion as soon as it is noticed that a child is having difficulties to learn then the necessary steps should be taken to prevent such challenges. It is unfair to adopt the wait and see attitude, we do not need to have labels or moreso place a child who could be helped into special education. If this program is going to assist in determining which child truly has a learning challenge as opposed to which child is not receiving adequate instruction then natrually it should be endorsed.

A program that offers sound scientific based evidence to promote learning could not come at a better time.The solution that is sure needed at this time to inform instructional decisions in our schools and for special education is a system that offers sound instructional principles, early intervention, research-based interventions, progress monitoring of students and employing rigorous assessments. While there may be those children or students are late starters it should not be taken for granted that this is applicable in all cases.

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