Presented at the 123rd Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association at Toronto, Canada, August 2015, Thursday, August 6, 1:00 P.M.
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Overall, reading scores in the United States of America (US) and South Carolina have been below the national average for the past several years. The majority of students, 66% tested, in the US were reading below the appropriate grade level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, national reading levels are low for not only elementary school children, but also middle school students. Twenty-two percent of students in middle school scored below their appropriate grade level (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). The Reading Orienteering Club (ROC) after school program is a group-centered prevention program that focuses on improving reading ability and comprehension in elementary school children of Aiken County. Students participating in ROC have difficulties in reading, spelling, and comprehension. This single-subject design study documented improvement in reading levels of seven children in Aiken County before and during participation in ROC. The children were then placed into two groups, based on the length of intervention: one or two years. Children who completed two years of intervention showed greater improvement than children who completed only one year.
Keywords: university-community program, group-centered prevention, reading, writing, English language arts
The Reading Orienteering Club for At-Risk Students: Follow-Up Study
by Anna Thompson
This study describes the outcomes of the ROC, “a year-long group-centered after-school community-based prevention program that emphasizes phonological awareness, reading and writing, spelling, and intensive hands-on instruction” (Clanton Harpine, 2013, p. ix). The ROC uses strategies such as vowel clustering, the 4-step method, and group-centered prevention interventions in order to improve the literacy scores and behavior of the children- primarily 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders, of Aiken County in South Carolina. The 4-step method involves having the children: (a) capture words they do not know, (b) write the word correctly, (c) look up the words in the dictionary to find the definition, (d) and write sentences using these words (Clanton Harpine, 2013). This allows children to correct themselves, learn a new word, and gain a better comprehension of the word. The main goals of this program are for children to practice “reading, writing, spelling, focusing their attention, comprehension, following step-by-step instruction, learning new words, and practicing a specific vowel cluster for the day” (Clanton Harpine, 2013, xi).
A lack of literacy skills has become a growing issue throughout the US. Overall reading scores of the US have been below grade level for the past several years. Sixty-six percent of children tested in the US were reading below the appropriate grade level for their age (National Center for Education, 2013). In this study, Reading Grade Level describes the reading ability of the participants based on grade level. The data was collected from the Dominie Reading Assessment, given by teachers in the Aiken County School District. According to the NAEP, national reading levels are low for elementary and middle school children (National Center for Education, 2013). For example, twenty-two percent of students in middle school scored below their appropriate grade level (National Center for Education, 2013). Programs like the ROC are important in helping improve literacy rates in elementary and middle school students, especially for those who may not be getting the needed support from home.
Additionally, the ROC program is a group-centered intervention program that focuses on academic performance using self-efficacy, intrinsic motivation, and group cohesion (Clanton Harpine, 2008). These goals are accomplished by allowing participants to complete the exercise stations at their own pace in small groups. Consequently, Brigman and Webb (2007) discovered success in using groups as an intervention tool. They studied ways to help students improve their reading skills and attitudes in order to be successful in a school setting, while utilizing both large and small groups.
This study was in response to a previously completed study based on the Group-Centered After-School Community-Based Prevention Program (Thompson, 2014). Thompson’s study examined the impact of the amount of time spent in the ROC program as well as the impact that occurred based on when the children began the intervention. The information gathered was then compared to the literacy scores of forty-six children. The results revealed that early intervention created positive reading outcomes for participants. However, the study did not provide enough evidence to support the hypothesis stating that staying in the program for a greater length of time, increased test scores (Thompson, 2014). The current study also tested two additional hypotheses. Hypothesis 1 states that children who complete the ROC program will show improvement in reading level. The second alternative hypothesis of this study states that children who complete the ROC program in two years will improve more than children who complete the program in one year. These hypotheses were determined based on positive scores of the participants in the previous study.
The participants of this case study include seven children who received no compensation or coercion in participating. Of this group of participants, three are male and four are female. Participants were enrolled in Byrd Elementary, North Aiken Elementary, Warrenville Elementary, and Aiken Elementary school in Aiken, South Carolina. Two participants completed the intervention during the 1st grade. Three participants completed the intervention during the 2nd grade. Two participants completed the intervention during the 3rd grade. Starting ages ranged from 6-years-old to 8-years-old. All seven participants are African American.
Materials and Design
In order to correctly evaluate the reading level of each participant, the children all completed the same standardized test. These standardized tests were given by teachers of the Aiken County school system at the completion of the fall, winter, and spring semesters. The test scores included the following: CogAt (measures intelligence), Dominie (measures reading level), and MAP (predicts how scores will be for PASS), PASS (states if student passed or failed the grade). Dominie Text Reading scores which used the core reading benchmark/ bridge level, were used to calculate reading ability based on grade level.
This particular case study uses an AB design, which consists of baseline data as well as data recorded during the intervention. The dependent variable for both hypotheses is the reading grade levels. The independent variable for hypothesis one is successful completion of the ROC program. The independent variable for hypothesis two is the length of intervention. The two different intervention groups consisted of one year of intervention and two years of intervention. Procedure
The public schools of Aiken County administered multiple standardized tests to students periodically throughout the school year. After all standardized tests are completed all students’ scores are recorded. To obtain the necessary test scores for this study, scores were obtained after the completion of the school year. The tests used by the Aiken County school system includes a standardize test that records scores in reading, language, math, social studies, and science (capitalize subjects). The current study utilized the scores for reading on grade level. After attaining all the information needed, participants’ scores were then compared and analyzed.
The null hypothesis of this study states that the ROC program will have no effect on the reading level of its participants. This study tested two alternative hypotheses: (1) children who complete the ROC program will show improvement in reading level, (2) and children who complete the ROC program in two years will improve more than children who complete the program in one year. Both hypotheses were analyzed using a single-subject AB design.
Overall, the two groups of children included one year of interventions and two years of interventions which revealed improvement in reading levels. The results revealed that with the intervention: two children increased their reading grade level by the end of the first fall season, two children improved their reading grade level by the end of the first winter season, two children improved their reading grade by the end of the first spring, and one child improved their reading grade level after the second fall. At the conclusion of the ROC program intervention, two participants were reading above grade level and five participants were reading at their current grade level. This combined data supports alternative hypothesis one.
After completing the ROC program for either one or two years, children demonstrated improvement. All three participants who completed the ROC program increased their reading grade level by at least one full level. The four participants who completed two years of intervention treatment at the ROC also demonstrated improvement by increasing their reading level two grade levels. Overall, children who completed the program in two years revealed a greater improvement than children who completed the intervention in one year.
The current study was completed as a follow-up study to the research accomplished by Thompson (2014) which recorded that staying in the program for a longer length of time, did not always increase test scores. The previous study had flaws in the design and possible complications with participants. Flaws in the design involved the data and analysis. Since there was no real comparison group, age was reported as a covariate (Thompson, 2014). As a result, that data was compared to an above and beyond natural group. Thompson’s study (2014) stated that the participants who continued for more than one year may have more serious learning problems, which would take more effort and time, than the participants who finished the program in the first year. The current study took the previously completed study’s design and results into consideration.
The current study showed that overall; the 7 participants improved their reading grade level while completing the ROC program. Participants who stayed in the program for 2 years improved their reading grade level more than participants who completed the ROC program in 1 year. According to this study, the ROC program showed success in teaching children to read and helped them increase their reading grade level.
Brigman, G. & Webb, L. (2007). Student success skills: Impacting achievement through large and small group work. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 11, 283-292. doi: 10.1037/1089-26184.108.40.2063
Clanton Harpine, E. (2013). After-School Prevention Programs for At-Risk Students: Promoting Engagement and Academic Success. New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-7416-6
Clanton Harpine, E. (2008).Group Interventions in Schools: Promoting Mental Health for At-Risk Children and Youth. New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-77317-9
National Center for Education Statistics (2013). The Nation’s Report Card: A First Look: 2013 Mathematics and Reading (NCES 2014-451). Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.
Thompson, A. L. (2014). Group-Centered After-School Community-Based Prevention Program. The Group Psychologist. 24