The Reading Edge: Evaluation of a Cooperative Learning Reading Intervention For Urban High Schools

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The Reading Edge: Evaluation of a Cooperative Learning Reading Intervention For Urban High Schools Nancy A. Madden Cecelia Daniels Anne Chamberlain* Success for All Foundation Alan Cheung Robert E. Slavin
The Reading Edge: Evaluation of a Cooperative Learning Reading Intervention For Urban High Schools Nancy A. Madden Cecelia Daniels Anne Chamberlain* Success for All Foundation Alan Cheung Robert E. Slavin Johns Hopkins University February, This study was carried out under funding from the Institute of Education Sciences, U. S. Department of Education (Grant No. R305B070324). However, any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent IES positions or policies. *Now at Social Dynamics LLC ***DRAFT DO NOT CITE*** 1 Abstract This article reports the findings of the first evaluation of The Reading Edge, a cooperative learning program for struggling secondary readers, in urban high schools. In addition to cooperative learning, the program emphasizes teaching of metacognitive skills, frequent assessment and regrouping, and a rapid pace. A quasi-experiment compared students in five Philadelphia-area high schools to similar schools in the same area. Controlling for eighth grade scores on state tests, students in The Reading Edge gained significantly more than controls on the overall Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GRADE) and on the Vocabulary subtest, but not on Sentence Comprehension or Passage Comprehension. The results, though modest in magnitude, suggest that reading performance can be improved in high-poverty urban high schools through an integrated program of instructional materials and professional development in cooperative learning strategies. 2 The high school years are a time of great promise as well as great peril. In high-poverty schools, however, there is more peril than promise. In particular, students who enter high school with poor literacy skills face long odds against graduating and going on to postsecondary education or satisfying careers. High school provides a last chance for many at-risk students, who must quickly improve their reading skills to be able to succeed in their demanding secondary courses (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004). The data are worrisome. Four-year high school completion rates range from 65.0 percent to 90.1 percent among states (Kaufman et al., 2004). Among African-American twelfth graders, 43% scored below basic on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NCES, 2010), and among Hispanic students, 39% scored this poorly. By comparison, only 19% of white students scored below basic. These scores are for the students who made it to twelfth grade, excluding those who dropped out, so they underreport the problem. Further, neither the scores nor the achievement gaps have improved since 1992, and significantly, scores are only slightly higher in twelfth grade than in eighth, suggesting that high school has very little impact on students reading performance. This situation is not new, but by any standard, the reading scores of disadvantaged and minority students in high school is unacceptable, as this poor performance translates directly into the high dropout rates and diminished futures characteristic of adolescents in high-poverty schools. For the students who leave high school, the workplace does not offer a reprieve from literacy demands. The knowledge, skills, and reading ability needed for college are not very different from those needed for success in the workplace (American Diploma Project, 2004). Students who struggle with reading are often blocked from taking the academically challenging coursework that could lead to more wide reading, exposure to advanced vocabulary and content 3 ideas (Au, 2000). Only 51% of ACT-tested students were deemed to be ready for college-level reading demands. Minority students and students whose families earned less than $30,000 per year were up to two and a half times less likely to be ready for college-level reading and success in basic college courses (ACT, 2006). While almost half of disadvantaged and minority students score below the basic level, even those who do read at the basic level have difficulty understanding the increasingly complex narrative and expository texts they are faced with in high school and beyond. For example, one of the major hurdles in acquiring science literacy is the conceptual density of math and science materials (Barton et al., 2002). Performance on these more difficult texts, which include contextdependent vocabulary, concept development, and graphical information, is the clearest differentiator between students who are ready to succeed in college and work and those who are not (ACT, 2006). Clearly, there is a need for well-evaluated programs capable of enabling high school students with poor reading skills to develop the facility they need with complex text to succeed in their high school coursework and to graduate ready for college and work-related reading demands. The poor reading skills of students in high-poverty high schools has long been recognized as a problem, yet there are very few replicable interventions available to improve the reading achievement of students in these grades, and fewer still that have even rudimentary evidence of effectiveness from experimental-control comparisons. Promising results have been reported for career academies (Kemple, 2004) and for restructuring large high schools into smaller ones (Bloom, Thompson, Unterman, 2010). Whole school reform models, especially the Talent Development High School (Kemple, Herlhy, & Smith, 2005) and First Things First (Quint, Bloom, Black, & Stephens, 2005) have also shown promise. In current policy, urban high 4 schools with persistently low achievement and high dropout rates, so-called dropout factories (Balfanz & Legters, 2004), are subject to draconian reforms, including closure, reopening as a charter school, takeover by states or other agencies, and so on, yet evaluations of solutions of this kind generally find that when the dust settles, student achievement remains very poor (see Alliance for Excellent Education, 2011; Cohen & Moffitt, 2009). While structural solutions may be necessary and effective in certain circumstances, there is also a need to have available classroom programs capable of improving student achievement within existing urban high schools with existing staffs. Even after restructuring, of course, effective programs are needed to take advantage of new leadership, resources, and structural opportunities. The problem is that there are few proven, replicable classroom programs known to be capable of improving achievement outcomes in urban low-performing high schools. In a review of research on reading programs for middle and high school students, Slavin, Cheung, Groff, & Lake (2008) found little support for simply using reading texts designed for middle and high school or for computer-assisted instruction (CAI) approaches, at least in experimental studies that met a minimum set of methodological standards. There were positive effects of Read 180, a program that provides a 90-minute daily remedial program in which students cycle through computer-assisted instruction, independent reading, and small-group tutorials. Across eight qualifying studies, the sample size-weighted mean effect size was +0.23, but it is important to note that in most studies, students in Read 180 were compared to those not receiving any supplemental reading instruction. Other than Read 180, all of the secondary reading programs found to be effective in the Slavin et al. (2008) review were various forms of cooperative learning methods, in which students work in small groups to help each other learn specific reading and study strategies. 5 These included Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS; Fuchs, Fuchs, & Kazdan, 1999; Calhoon, 2005), which had a sample size-weighted effect size of across three studies. The other main cooperative learning approach was a set of strategies called The Reading Edge, a comprehensive reading approach that emphasizes cooperative learning, metacognitive strategies, and generative study skills. Combining a cohesive curriculum with research-based instructional processes, extensive professional development, and support for teachers and school leaders, The Reading Edge has been found to improve the reading achievement of students in middle schools in two major studies. One was a national study involving 14 schools in 6 states. In that study (Slavin, Daniels, & Madden, 2005), seven middle schools using The Reading Edge were compared to matched control schools in the same state (usually the same district) in terms of gains over a three-year period on their state tests. Schools using The Reading Edge gained more than their respective controls in six of seven comparisons. On average, Reading Edge schools gained 24.6 percentage points in percent passing state reading tests. Control schools gained 2.2 percentage points. The schools were all high-poverty Title I schools, but were otherwise quite diverse, including schools in inner-city Indianapolis, rural Missouri and Louisiana, and an Indian reservation in Washington State. An overall 2 x 2 x 2 chi square analysis (experimental-control x pre-post x pass-fail) found that these differences were statistically significant (p .01). The mean effect size was The second study of The Reading Edge (Chamberlain, Daniels, Madden, & Slavin, 2007) involved middle schools in Florida and West Virginia. Students and teachers were randomly assigned to use The Reading Edge or to continue their usual reading programs for one school year. On Gates McGinitie posttests, controlling for pretests, students in The Reading Edge scored significantly higher than those in the control group (ES = +0.15, p .05). 6 Earlier versions of the Johns Hopkins cooperative learning methods have also been found to increase achievement in middle schools. One of these, called Student Team Reading, was evaluated in high-poverty middle schools in Baltimore. Across two year-long matched comparisons, the mean effect size was on California Achievement Test (CAT) comprehension and vocabulary measures (Stevens & Durkin, 1992). Effects were larger for students with special needs (ES = +0.44). In the present study, a program adapted from The Reading Edge middle school approach was evaluated for the first time in inner-city high schools, with students who are struggling to learn to read. The Reading Edge for high schools makes extensive use of direct, explicit lessons, cooperative learning, teaching of metacognitive study strategies, frequent assessment, differentiated instruction, and a rapid pace of instruction. The main elements of The Reading Edge as adapted for high schools and the rationales for them are described in the following sections. Cooperative Learning. Cooperative learning refers to methods in which students work in small groups to help one another learn. In The Reading Edge, teams have 4-5 members and are assigned by the teacher to be diverse in achievement levels, gender, and ethnicity. Extensive randomized and matched experimental research on cooperative learning methods has found that cooperative strategies increase student achievement if they incorporate two key conditions: the cooperative groups have some sort of group goal or objective, and the only way they can meet this goal is if all group members can individually demonstrate their mastery of the material (Slavin, 1995; Slavin, Hurley, & Chamberlain, 2003; Webb & Palincsar, 1996). That is, cooperative learning increases student achievement if the group members roles are to teach each 7 other or to prepare each other for assessments. Studies have found positive effects of this type of cooperative learning in many subjects and grade levels (Slavin, 1995). Students in The Reading Edge receive recognition based on the sum of individual team members assessments, and they have regular opportunities to prepare one another for these assessments. In The Reading Edge, cooperative learning plays a central role in providing strategy instruction to students (see the following section). Cooperative learning methods have been successfully utilized with strategy instruction in a variety of peer-assisted techniques (see O Donnell, 2000; Webb & Palincsar, 1996), and the Success for All Middle School (Slavin, Daniels, & Madden, 2005; Chamberlain et al., 2007). The Reading Edge focuses on teaching and supporting application of metacognitive reading strategies that have been extensively evaluated with young adolescents. These powerful learning strategies have been found to help young adolescents comprehend difficult materials and to study and retain information (Pressley & Woloshyn, 1995; Collins et al., 2003; Pressley, 2003). A related body of research has identified means of teaching students strategies for selfregulation, such as monitoring their own comprehension and setting their own reading goals (Paris & Paris, 2001; Schunk & Zimmerman, 2003). Yet despite the wide acceptance of these findings among researchers, explicit metacognitive strategy instruction is rarely seen in day-today reading in high-poverty secondary schools. The Reading Edge translates the findings of metacognitive strategy instruction into practical, replicable techniques for middle school teachers and uses cooperative learning methods and other design elements to make strategy instruction effective as a routine part of reading comprehension instruction. Specific metacognitive strategies that have been particularly well researched include use of cooperative learning, 8 summarization, graphic organizers, story grammar, imagery, question generation, activation of prior knowledge, and self-regulation (see Pressley & Woloshyn, 1995; Schunk & Zimmerman, 2003). All of these are emphasized in the Reading Edge program. Explicit support for the use of metacognitive strategies is provided in detailed daily lesson plans provided for teachers. For example, early in every Reading Edge six-day lesson cycle, students are presented with The Big Question, a provocative question that students ponder and discuss over the course of the day s activities. With stems such as Have you ever or How would you handle this character s challenge or Based on what you know about, students must draw upon their own experiences and beliefs as well as details from the text they are reading in order to formulate their answer. This question often leads to student-generated questions of the same kind, and enriches team and partner discussions about the text. It also requires students to paraphrase or summarize what they have read, and encourages students to monitor their comprehension as they read. Also in the early steps of every lesson, teachers use a Building Background segment in which they activate students prior knowledge and help students make connections to the text from their personal experience or other reading. Teachers make connections to student interests, and hold conversations in which they discuss vocabulary important to the understanding of the text. They preview the text and discuss text features that prompt students to make predictions about the main idea, topic, or theme, depending on the nature of the text. During the Active Instruction portion of the lesson cycle, the teacher engages students in targeted instruction and guided practice on how to use a particular strategy or skill. For example, the teacher might read aloud a passage from the text and stop and think aloud about something significant, perhaps an example of foreshadowing, and how it influences her thinking 9 as she reads. As she does this, she is breaking down a larger strategy into smaller steps so students can understand the otherwise invisible tools that good readers use. After this strategy has been modeled and discussed, students practice using it as they read, set personal and team goals for effective strategy use, and later reflect upon whether or not the strategies improved their comprehension. During Teamwork, students read some text silently and some aloud with a partner. They stop regularly to paraphrase what they just read, to share insights, and to clarify understanding. After reading, each team of 4 or 5 students uses cooperative learning routines to discuss what they have read, and Discuss and Defend their answers to prepared Team Talk Questions. Students have the opportunity to clarify their thinking, try out new ideas and strategies, use new vocabulary, and help teammates understand the text. Each student writes an extended response to one of the team talk questions. During Teamwork time, the teacher circulates around the room to check for understanding, prompt and reinforce positive behavior, and conduct quick, informal conferences with partners or teams called One-to-One s. During these interactions, the teacher can informally assess the students grasp of the targeted strategy or skill. Differentiated Instruction and Grouping. The Reading Edge uses an adaptation of the Joplin Plan, a flexible grouping strategy found in much research to increase student achievement (Gutiérrez & Slavin, 1992). Students are assessed using a standardized reading instrument and grouped according to instructional reading level and specific needs. Students are then re-assessed quarterly and moved to the highest instructional level at which they can succeed based on their progress during the quarter. Engaging instruction. The instructional processes designed into each Reading Edge lesson build in both a rapid pace of instruction and a high demand for thinking and responding 10 by every student though structured cooperative learning. Research indicates that a rapid pace of instruction, consistent with high student comprehension, both maintains students attention and increases students achievement (e.g., Barr, 1987; Good, Grouws, & Ebmeier, 1983). Classroom management methods based on cooperative learning enable teachers to maintain a rapid pace of instruction and have both immediate and lasting impact on students behavior and achievement. For example, Hawkins, Doueck, & Lishner (1988) used preventive classroom management methods emphasizing cooperative learning and interactive teaching with low-achieving seventh graders. In comparison with control group students, those involved in the program were suspended and expelled less often, had better attitudes toward school, and had higher achievement. These effects were substantially maintained in a long-term follow-up assessment into high school (Hawkins et al., 2001). Other longitudinal studies have also shown immediate and long-term positive effects of classroom management programs that emphasize cooperative learning and student engagement (O Donnell et al., 1995; Freiberg, Connell, & Lorentz, 2001; Dolan et al., 1993). Instruction in The Reading Edge focuses on the development of reading strategies needed for comprehension of more complex texts, including expository and high-inference texts. Students use trade books of both types as well as content-area texts similar to those they use in social studies and science classes. Instruction focuses on metacognitive comprehension skills such as clarification, summarization, self-questioning, questioning the author, graphic organizers, prediction, and self-monitoring. In addition, students practice reading with fluency using complex text in their teams and monitor growth toward grade-level performance. Vocabulary is emphasized for all students, using research-based vocabulary strategies, including writing sentences to show the meaning of vocabulary words, and identifying unknown words and 11 marking them with sticky notes in the clarification process (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002; Blachowicz et al., 2006; Graves, 2006). Students build a word power journal in which they keep records of new words and meanings. For students reading below the fourth grade level, instruction in phonics and word analysis skills is also provided. Every Reading Edge lesson follows a regular pattern, but the instruction itself varies according to the n
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