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Improving Language and Literacy Outcomes for Preschool Children at Highest Risk for Reading Problems


Language and early literacy skills are foundational to reading and school success. Effective early intervention during the preschool years for children at highest risk for school failure may improve their chances of learning to read and learning from reading in the early elementary school years. Children with Individualized Education Plans (IEP), children with very low language, and children with low language and high problem behavior who are also enrolled in Head Start are extremely high risk for later reading problems.

The purpose of the proposed project is to examine the differential effects of three approaches to improving language and literacy skills in these very risk high children enrolled in the JCCEO Head Start Program, Birmingham, AL. These approaches are: 1) OWL (Schickedanz & Dickinson, 2005) a curriculum specifically designed to provide instruction in early literacy skills; 2) OWL + Enhanced Milieu Teaching (EMT; Kaiser, l993), an individualized naturalistic communication intervention designed to teach specific language skills in the context of every day activities: and 3) Creative Curriculum (CC,), a general curriculum model which is widely used in Head Start.

Using a stratified random assignment procedure, teachers and their classrooms are assigned to one of the three treatments. 480 children (120 children with IEPs, 240 children with very low language scores, and 120 children with low language scores and high problem behavior) will be selected from the 60 classrooms (eight children per class). Data collection will occur at four time points to determine the immediate and longer-term effects of the intervention: pre intervention, post intervention, kindergarten follow-up and first grade follow-up. Children will be administered a battery of language, literacy and achievement tests at each point and teacher reported measures of behavior, social skills, and classroom relationships will be collected. In addition, growth curves for language and early literacy skills will be derived using Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDI). A randomly selected sub-sample of 240 children and all 60 teachers will be observed to determine how their behavior and engagement interact with the instruction provided by teachers with each intervention to produce learning outcomes.

Data will be analyzed using HLM techniques with a systematic examination of child, teacher, and classroom quality factors that moderate the effects of the interventions.