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CREP Awarded $1.1 Million Contract To Study Early Literacy Intervention Program

For release: May 19, 2011
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843

Heinemann Publishing, a leading producer of professional development books and resources for teachers, has awarded the University of Memphis’ Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) a $1.1 million contract to research the effectiveness of an early literacy intervention for K-2 students.

Focused on students who struggle with reading and writing, the Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) system is designed to quickly help students achieve grade level proficiency. The study will establish the effectiveness of LLI for urban school children and will act as a follow-up to an earlier study of LLI conducted by CREP during the 2009-10 school year. The previous study established LLI’s effectiveness in two rural/suburban school districts, especially for students who are of diverse ethnicities, economically disadvantaged, English language learners, or receive special education services.

“We hope to duplicate the findings of the earlier study in a large urban school district,” said Dr. Carolyn Ransford-Kaldon, a member of the CREP research team. “Such districts tend to face unique challenges in terms of poverty, student mobility, and teacher retention, as well as addressing the needs of students learning English as a second language.”

LLI, published by Heinemann, is similar to earlier literacy tutoring programs. However, it may benefit more students in a shorter amount of time because it is short-term (daily 30-minute lessons for 14 to 18 weeks) and involves working with small groups of three students. These features are important for districts, especially in urban areas, that have limited resources to serve large numbers of students.  And because research suggests that children with poor early reading skills continue to struggle in the later grades and are more likely to drop out of school, LLI’s focus on early readers holds promise for preventing chronic reading problems.

The research will be conducted by Dr. Sutton Flynt, a professor of literacy and the director of the U of M’s Teacher Education Program; Ransford-Kaldon, a senior researcher at CREP; and Crissy Ross, a CREP research associate.

The study will involve nearly 1,000 students in 25 to 30 schools in the Denver Public Schools district. Denver volunteered to participate in the study because it is an urban center with a large population of ethnic minority and English language learner students. Such populations are growing across the United States.

The study, which will be conducted during the upcoming school year, will compare the literacy achievement of struggling students who receive only regular classroom literacy instruction to those who receive LLI instruction as well. The study will also gather feedback from teachers, parents and administrators and use classroom observations to evaluate teachers’ use of LLI.

“This type of study has the potential to garner a lot of national recognition because of its urban setting and the study’s focus on the most fragile students in K-2,” said Flynt. “This sort of research is the gold standard because we are randomizing at the student level. We’re fortunate that Denver Public Schools are willing to commit to make it happen.”

Added Ross, “We hope the upcoming study, combined with the results of our previous study, will help show that LLI can be effective for multiple types of students in a variety of school settings. With today’s emphasis on evidence-based practices in education, districts are more likely to adopt LLI if it’s been shown by independent research to be effective. That’s where CREP comes in.”

Housed in the College of Education, CREP is one of five Tennessee Centers of Excellence whose mission is to improve PreK-12 education and provide a knowledge base for use by educational practitioners and policymakers.

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