Categories
Committee Reports

The Reading Orienteering Club for At-Risk Students: Follow-Up Study

Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson, MA

Presented at the 123rd Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association at Toronto, Canada, August 2015, Thursday, August 6, 1:00 P.M.

Address correspondence to: a.thompson992@yahoo.com

Abstract

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.

Method

Participants

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.

Results

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.

Discussion

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.

References

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: 10.1037/1089-2699.11.4.283

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

Categories
Brief Articles

University-Community Group-Centered Prevention Project with At-Risk Students: Four Year Study

Anna Thompson, M.A.
Anna Thompson, M.A.

Anna Thompson, M.A.

University of South Carolina Aiken

Abstract

The Reading Orienteering Club (ROC) is a university-community collaborative group-centered prevention after-school project that focuses on the reading ability and comprehension of what children are reading. This program’s concentration is on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders primarily from a southern small town, population 29,884 with an ever increasing low socio-economic community base. Reading is a vital skill necessary in order to survive and thrive in all aspects of life including school and future jobs. The students who participated in this case study experienced academic problems in reading, spelling, or comprehension. The ROC program, recorded the level of reading, spelling and sight words using a pretest and post-test. Children were evaluated as to their improvement by age: 5 to 7-years-old, 8-years-old, and 9 to 11-years-old. Participation was open, free, and self-selected by the parents, teachers, and other community after-school groups who are affiliated with the students. The 1st hypothesis was: children who begin the program at younger ages will improve more than children who begin when they are older. The 2nd hypothesis was: children who attend the program for more than one year will show greater increases from pre to post test. Overall, the three groups of children showed similar improvements in all literacy areas. Outcomes of the program were positive and provided evidence of significant improvements from pretest to post-test. Results showed that there were no significant main effects or interactions with age group. The 2nd hypothesis was not supported.

Keywords: group-centered prevention, prevention groups, after-school programs, reading failure

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 vowel clustering, the 4-step method, and group-centered prevention interventions 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 tricky words, 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 lets the children correct themselves, learn a new word, and get a better comprehension of the word. The main goals of this program are for the 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).

Torgesen believes “the ultimate goal of reading instruction is to help children acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to comprehend printed material at a level that is consistent with their general verbal ability or language comprehension skills” (2002, p. 10). At the ROC, a goal is to bring a child from reading below the appropriate reading level to reading at or above their reading level (grade). One study conducted used children from 14 elementary schools (Hatcher et al., 2006). The children were split into two groups. One group received the small group intervention for 20 weeks and the other received the intervention for only the second 10 weeks. During the first 10 weeks of the full 20 week program, students who participated in the intervention improved more than the other children who did not receive the first half of the program (Hatcher et al., 2006). On the other hand the second group who only received the small group intervention during the second set of 10 weeks, caught up to the first group. This may mean it does not matter how long the small group intervention is, but just that the children participate in the intervention. The current study looks at the amount of time spent in the program in order to see if more time spent in the program translates into more improvement. It also looks at whether or not early intervention helps improve test scores. Targeted skills include taking turns and sharing, building self-efficacy, working together, and motivation (Clanton Harpine, 2013). A child’s self-efficacy is their belief that they can succeed.

Motivation Component

Motivation is defined as the inner power that makes people do what they do” (Clanton Harpine, 2013). The key to motivation is that it is something that cannot be forced onto a person, particularly a child. Motivation comes from different experiences and the affect that each experience has on the internal mindset of the child. There are both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Extrinsic motivation comes from quick automatic rewards such as ice cream after completing homework or a particular amount of money for every A on a report card. The ROC does not reward students by using extrinsic motivation, but focuses instead on intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is motivation that does not come from receiving a prize after completion but the motivation to complete the task because of the enjoyment and interest in the task at hand. “Intrinsic motivation can help children rebuild their self-efficacy, change their approach to learning, and consequently, change their behavior” (Clanton Harpine, 2008, p. 20).

The creator of the ROC has discovered several items that help a group-centered program like the ROC, build children’s motivation, particularly intrinsic motivation. These according to Ryan and Deci, include: “positive self-efficacy, efficacy expectations, outcome expectations, choice, competence-affirming feedback, and self-determination” (Clanton Harpine, 2013, p. 56). Children are encouraged to continue learning when not only the parents see improvement and give praise, but also when the children themselves see an improvement in the struggling area. The ROC is a program that allows children of different ages to work together as a team and not be judged based on their lower reading skills. Each child has areas that may need improvement. They are able to receive the extra encouragement, helping to increase their intrinsic motivation.

A study conducted by Gottfried, Fleming, & Gottfried (1994) discovered, using a longitudinal study of 9 and 10 year-olds, that the intrinsic motivation practices of the group of 9 year-olds influenced an increase in academic level when they turned 10. The study looked at verbal and math skills. The predications of the experimenters were “children’s academic intrinsic motivation … [would be] positively related to encouragement of task endogeny and negatively related to provision of task-extrinsic consequences” (Gottfried, Fleming, & Gottfried, 1994, p. 104). The results of this study supported these predications in showing the importance of internal motivation in academic success.

The current study looked at the impact of the amount of time spent in the ROC program and the compared literacy scores of 46 children. These 46 children were grouped by age: 5 to 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and 9 to 11-year-olds. The hypothesis was that the longer children continued in the ROC program, the more their literacy scores would increase. Another hypothesis of this study was, the early starting ages of children completing the ROC program would result in an increase of later scores. In this study, Literacy includes reading, spelling, and comprehension. Literacy is important especially as a child due to the influence it has on later life experiences including jobs, secondary education, and day to day activities. All of these experiences involve literacy. Spelling is the skill of putting letter sounds together correctly to form a word and reading is the skill of decoding these letter sounds to read written or printed material aloud (Clanton Harpine, 2013). Comprehension is the ability to understand what is being read and use what is read to: elaborate on material, continue with stories, apply it to today’s world, and complete activities based on reading material (Clanton Harpine, 2013).

This study tested the hypothesis that the early starting ages of children completing the ROC program would result in an increase of later scores. This hypothesis was created due to Lyon’s idea that “if children are not provided early and consistent experiences that are explicitly designed to foster vocabulary development, background knowledge, the ability to detect and comprehend relationships among verbal concepts, and the ability to actively employ strategies to ensure understanding and retention of material, reading failure will occur no matter how robust word recognition skills are” (1998, p. 10). Keller & Just showed that the white matter of the brain can change over time, even though it takes more time and is harder with age (Keller & Just, 2009). They tested 62 children with ages ranging from 8-years-old to 12-years-old. Attitude, motivation, and stigmatization of failure play a major role in change with these older children which can cause for change to be more difficult. The second alternative hypothesis of this study was, the longer children continue in the ROC program, the more their literacy scores would increase.

Method

Participants

The participants of this study included 46 children who received no compensation or coercion in participating. There were 25 male participants and 21 female participants. Eighteen participants were ages 5 to 7-years-old. Eleven of the participants were 8-years-old. Seventeen of the participants’ ages ranged from 9-years-old to 11-years-old. All the participants were enrolled in the Aiken County school system. Starting ages ranged from 5 years old to 11 years old. Sixteen participants were Caucasian, 28 participants were African American and three were of mixed descent.

Materials and Procedure

In order to correctly test the reading level of each child, the children all completed the same test. The skills were assessed using the Howard Street Tutoring Manual, 2nd ed. (2005) by Darrell Morris. The test data on reliability and validity of test was also completed by Morris (Morris, Shaw, & Perney, 1990; Morris, Tyner, & Perney, 2000). The 46 children were first tested before the program begins in the fall to get a starting level. Then the children were tested using the same test in the winter as a mid-point test to see any improvement made and any areas that may need more help. Lastly, the 46 children were tested in the spring at the completion of the program for that year to see how far they improved. Fourteen of the children who completed the ROC program continued for an additional year and were tested before the start of the school new year and again for mid-point testing. Two of the children continued for an additional third year and received the same testing. Testing effects have been evaluated previously in order that the children are not scoring better on the later tests just because they have already completed the test. There was no testing effect discovered.

Each child was given the same test during the beginning, middle, and end of the ROC program. The test consisted of reading, spelling, comprehension, and sight word sections. Each section was then split into three more sections, which corresponded to 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade levels. Scores were organized by reading level and the amount missed, spelling level and the amount missed, sight word level and the amount missed, and the comprehension scores which consisted of the amount missed by the participants. Levels 1, 2, 3 represents before 1st grade. Level 4 represents 1st grade, 5 represents 2nd grade, 6 represents 3rd grade, and 7 represents 4th grade.

Design

This study is a quasi-experimental study. The dependent variable is the scores for each of the literacy areas. The two independent variables for hypothesis 1 are ages of the children and the time of measurement. The independent variable for hypothesis 2 is the amount of time in the program. This study has a mixed design with the independent variable of, time of measurement, and the age and gender of the between-subject variable. Three different age groups include: 5 to 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and 9 to 11-year-olds. The 46 children who completed the Reading Orienteering Club (ROC) fall under one of these categories of ages. Eighteen of these children started at the age of 5 to 7-years-old, 11 of these children were 8-years-old, and 17 of these children started at the ages of 9 to 11-years-old.

Results

The first hypothesis was tested using a repeated measures ANOVA. It was 3 (Ages) x 3 (pre, mid, post) using mixed design. Overall, the three groups of children; aged 5 to 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and 9 to 11-year-olds showed similar improvements in all literacy areas. The results showed boys and girls improved from pretest to midtests, but not much improvement from mid-test to posttest, no matter their ages, for the level of spelling. Thirty-five percent of the variations in spelling scores were explained by the ages of the participants. There was a significant main effect for age based on spelling, F(2, 4) = 6.93, p = .002. There was also a significant main effect for age based on reading, F(2, 4) = 19.87, p = .000. Overall from midpoint testing to post testing all participants improved; from pretest to posttest, the younger age groups improved. This supports the hypothesis for younger children improving more than the older children, due to a main effect for time based on the age groups, F(4,4), p = .033. Looking at the data generally, everyone still improved. A significant main effect was sight words, F(2, 4) = 9.06, p = .000. From the mid-tests to post-test, the younger children showed improvement. This also supports the hypothesis: the early starting ages of children completing the ROC program would result in an increase of later scores. The last significant main effect was found for comprehension, F(2, 4) = .64, p = .000. From pretest to post-test, all groups improved. The stigmatization of failure, mentioned earlier, may also be part of the reason for not receiving stronger change with the older students.

A second aspect of this study also involved the 46 children. These 46 children represent three years of participation. Thirty children finished the ROC program in one year. Fourteen children took 2 years to complete the program and two of the participants took 3 years to complete. Participants who took 2 years and 3 years to complete the program were put into one group, which was compared to the children who were able to complete the program in 1 year. There was a significant main effect for the amount of time spent in the program based on spelling, F(2, 2) = 5.96, p = .004. Participants improved as much the second years, as they did the first year. Unfortunately, there was not a significant main effect for reading, F(2, 2) = 2.07, p = .133. Everyone did show signs of improvement. A significant main effect was found for comprehension comparing time and years, F(2, 2) = 0.17, p = .007. The children who completed the ROC program in 1 year improved more from midpoint test to post-test. Overall, children who completed the program in 1 year did better than children who took a longer period of time. Lastly there was not a significant main effect was sight words, F(2, 2) = 1.73, p = .184. Participants did still improve overall.

Discussion

There was not much support for the hypothesis that staying in the program for a longer length of time, increased test scores. The only set of scores that showed significance for this hypothesis was the reading comprehension scores that showed one group improving more from mid-test to post-test. In this instance the group of children who showed significant improvement above the rest was the participants who completed the program in one year.

There are many reasons for the hypothesis to not be supported. One reason for the hypothesis to not be supported involves the nature of the second and third year children. The case may be that the children who have to continue on for another year or 2 have more serious learning problems, which would take more work and time, than the children who finished the program in one year. The analysis itself may also cause for no significance to be reported. Age was reported as a covariate which is a statistical way to look at a comparison group that is not reported. This compares the current data to an above and beyond natural group. The data was briefly analyzed without using age as a covariate, but was not used due to the lack of a real comparison group. Overall, the ROC program has shown improving scores of participants. The concept behind the ROC program is to help all children learn how to read in order to better their lives now and in the future.

References

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

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

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/

Gottfried, A., Fleming, J. S., & Gottfried, A. W. (1994). Role of parental motivational practices in children’s academic intrinsic motivation and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(1), 104-113. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.86.1.104

Hatcher, P. J., Hulme, C., Miles, J. V., Carroll, J. M., Hatcher, J., Gibbs, S., & … Snowling, M. J. (2006). Efficacy of small group reading intervention for beginning readers with reading-delay: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, 47(8), 820-827. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01559.x

Keller, T. A., & Just, M. A. (2009). Altering cortical connectivity: Remediation-induced changes in the white matter of poor readers. Neuron, 64, 624-631. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2009.10.018

Lyon, G. R. (1998, April 28). Overview of reading and literacy initiatives. Retrieved July 14, 2014, from http://www.nrrf.org/learning/overview-of-nichd-reading-and-literacy-initiatives/

Morris, D., Shaw, B., & Perney, J. (1990). Helping low readers in grades 2 and 3: An after-school volunteer tutoring program. The Elementary School Journal, 91(2), 133-150. doi:10.1086/461642

Morris, D., Tyner, B., & Perney, J. (2000). Early Steps: Replicating the effects of a first-grade reading intervention program. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(4), 681-693. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.92.4.681

South Carolina State Department of Education. (2014). Retrieved from https://ed.sc.gov

Torgesen, J. K. (2002). The prevention of reading difficulties. Journal of School Psychology, 40(1), 7–26.

Categories
Brief Articles

Group-Centered After-School Community-Based Prevention Program

Anna Thompson, MA
Anna Thompson, MA

Anna Louise Thompson, MA
University of South Carolina Aiken

Over the past few years, South Carolina has started to implement The Common Core State Standards (CCSS). CCSS is “a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics” (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2014). This study focuses on the English language arts portion starting in 2011. CCSS began its transition period in South Carolina in the year 2011. This school year, 2013-2014 CCSS is being used for instructional purposes and by next year, 2014-2015, it will be fully executed (South Carolina State Department of Education, 2014). Reading scores have shown a slight improvement during the past 3 years since CCSS has been implemented. In 2011, the growth rating of Aiken in the SC Annual School Report was below the average mean but in 2012 and 2013 the scores improved to above the average mean. Unfortunately, the overall percent scores of South Carolina and Aiken County have been below the national average for the past three years. The majority of students, 39%, tested in public schools in Aiken County were below basic, which is below the average score, in reading. Thirty-four percent of students tested at basic, 25 percent were proficient, which is above the average score, and only 7% tested at advanced, which is the highest level possible, in reading (South Carolina State Department of Education, 2014).

Even though the growth of Aiken County School District showed improvement, there is still much needed work. The growth average of student’ scores reflect improvement from one testing period to the next (South Carolina State Department of Education, 2014). Reading scores in Aiken County increased from 2011 to 2013 from 74.1% to 74.6%, only a .5 difference (South Carolina State Department of Education, 2014). The reading score percent is the reading scores of children, amount correct divided by the total, converted into a percent out of 100 (South Carolina State Department of Education, 2014). The national scores have also increased, but at a higher rate going from 74.3% to 76.9%, a greater difference of 2.6 (South Carolina State Department of Education, 2014). This may imply the CCSS is making an improvement, but not a great enough improvement to really make a difference. By implementing the CCSS, the goal is to have all children learn the same material to give everyone a chance to thrive in the community. It also allows for teachers to understand what all of the children need to learn.

This idea of common standards may not work for all children. Children work and learn at different speeds and ways, which entail not all children learning in the same program. Some children may fall behind in school because they cannot keep up the fast pace of staying with the other classmates. Teachers have certain standards they must implement during the school year in order to follow along with CCSS. The Reading Orienteering Club (ROC) program allows for children who are failing in reading, to learn the basics they need to thrive in this fast paced society. ROC helps children learn how to read and understand what is being read, along with working together as a group to help with behavior problems that may happen in the classroom setting (Clanton & Harpine, 2013).

Family Structure and Literacy
Teachers in the public and private schools interact with the children on an almost daily basis to teach them the needed information to thrive in today’s society. Teachers and parents need to work together in order to help educate children. The family can help influence good learning outcomes. Some children are given more educational experiences through living with more than one parent. Other children have a harder time learning due to ever changing environments such as changing out-of-home placements. One factor in a child’s reading ability may be the type of family structure and environment the children are being raised in.

There are many different aspects to a family structure, many of which involve the specific family members. These include single parent families, families with both biological parents, and even parents whom are not the biological parents. These different family structures, given the right tools, could continue to raise children who show great strides in learning material in school. Family structure in this study is defined by who is in charge of the household. In family settings that have two biological parents, one or both parents have a job and one or both parents help around the house. In family settings where there is only one biological parent, the mother is in charge of the household. When there is no biological parent, the participants were in out-of care homes such as foster homes or organizations that give residency to children up to the age of 21 years old. These children have been court ordered by the South Carolina Department of Social Services or the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice to stay in custodial care.

Literacy includes reading, spelling, and comprehension. Literacy is important especially as a child due to the influence it has on later life experiences including jobs, secondary education, and day to day activities. Literacy affect’s not only a child’s schooling, but also their adult life which may result in poor adult outcomes. Spelling is the skill of putting letters together correctly to form a word and reading is the skill of putting these letter sounds together to read written or printed material aloud (Clanton Harpine, 2013). Comprehension is the ability to understand what is being read and use what is read to: elaborate on material, continue with stories, apply it to today’s world, and complete activities based off reading material (Clanton Harpine, 2013). During Petrill, Deater-Deckard, Schatschneider, and Davis’s adoption study, they realized that the family environment was related to reading results instead of genetics (2005). The current study includes children from several family structures to expand on the thoughts of family environment. Literature has also shown the influence of foster care on children’s literacy knowledge. Zima and associates (2000) acknowledged the fact of other studies showing behavior and academic issues arising from the different types of foster care including “non-kinship family, therapeutic, and group” (p. 89). A few of these foster cares are represented in this present study.

Group-Centered
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). Group intervention involves children working as a team to complete tasks set before them. Each child is responsible for their own work, but work in groups using the same tools, instructions and helping each other when needed. The ROC uses vowel clustering, the 4-step method, and group-centered prevention interventions to improve the literacy scores and behavior of the children, primarily 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders, of Aiken County in South Carolina. The step method involves having the children: (a) capture tricky words, 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 lets the children correct themselves, learn a new word, and get a better comprehension of the word. The main goals for this program is for the 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).

At the ROC, a goal is to bring a child from reading below the appropriate reading level to reading at or above their age level (grade). One study conducted used children from 14 elementary schools (Hatcher et al., 2006). The children were split into two groups. One group received small group intervention for 20 weeks and the other received the intervention for only the second 10 weeks. During the first 10 weeks of the full 20 week program, students improved more than the other children who did not receive the first half of the program (Hatcher et al., 2006). On the other hand the second group who only received the small group intervention during the second set of 10 weeks, caught up to the first group. This may mean the amount of small group intervention does not matter, only that it is utilized. The current study also looks at how long each of the 32 participants stayed in the ROC program and their final scores.

Method

Participants
The participants of this study included 32 children who received no compensation or coercion in participating. The children were in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. There were 15 male participants and 17 female participants. All the participants were enrolled in the Aiken County school system. Twenty-six of these participants were enrolled in public school. One participant was enrolled in a charter school and five were home schooled. Ages ranged from 5 years old to 12 years old. Nine participants were Caucasian, 21 participants were African American and two were of mixed decent. Of the 32 participants, 14 lived with two biological parents, 12 lived with one biological parent, and six lived with no biological parents. Twenty-one students were able to stay in the correct grade level occupied by their age group, while seven were one grade level behind, five were two grade levels behind, and one participant was five grade levels behind.

Materials and Procedure
In order to correctly test the level of each child, the children all completed the same test. The skills were assessed using the Howard Street Tutoring Manual, 2nd ed (2005) by Darrell Morris. The test data on internal reliability, which was 0.85, and validity of test, which was 0.70, was also completed by Morris (Morris, Tyner, & Perney, 2007, Morris & Carter, 1997). The children are first tested before the program begins in the fall to get a starting level. Then the children are tested using the same test in the winter as a mid-point test to see any improvement made and any areas that may need more help. Lastly, the children are tested in the spring at the completion of the program for that year to see how far they improved. Thirteen of the children who completed the ROC program continued for an additional 4 months and were tested before the start of the school new year and again for mid-point testing. In cases of repeated testing, testing effects are those in which children score better on later tests, because they have already complected the test previously. There was no testing effect discovered.

Each child was given the same test during the beginning, middle, and end of the ROC program. The test consisted of reading, spelling, comprehension, and sight word sections. Each section was then split into three more sections, which corresponded to 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade levels. Scores were organized by reading level and the amount missed, spelling level and the amount missed, sight word level and the amount missed, and the comprehension scores which consisted of the amount missed by the participants. The data was placed into a SPSS file and then compared.

Design
This study is a quasi-experimental study. The dependent variable is completing the ROC program. The two independent variables are the type of family structure and the time of measurement. This study has a mixed design with the independent variable of, time of measurement, and the type of family structure as the between-subject variable. Three different family structures include: two biological parents, one biological parent, and no biological parents. The groups of children who have no biological parents live in a group home setting or foster care. The 32 children who completed the Reading Orienteering Club (ROC) fall under one of these categories of family structure. Fourteen of these children live with two biological parents and 12 children live with only one biological parent. One child lives in a group setting, and five children live in foster homes. Potential confounding variables include the highest level of the guardian’s education, the amount of encouragement received from the school and home environment, the amount of opportunities given to each child, sex of the children, and the race of the child. The types of schooling include: public school, including charter school and home school.

Results

This study tested the hypothesis that children who participated in the ROC and lived with two biological parents would show greater improvement in reading, spelling, and comprehension than children who lived with only one or no biological parent. The second part of this study involved children completing the ROC program for an additional 4 months. These four months corresponded to one semester in a school year. The second null hypothesis of this study was there would be no relationship between ROC literacy scores and the additional participation. The second alternative hypothesis was, children who participated in the ROC for an additional semester would show greater improvement than the children who only participated for a year. Three groups were compared: children with two biological parents, children with one biological parent, and children with no biological parents.

This hypothesis was tested using a repeated measures ANOVA. It was 3 (FSgroup) x 3 (pre, mid, post) using mixed design. Overall, the three groups of children; children with two biological parents, children with one biological parent, and children with no biological parents had similar improvements in all areas. The only exception would be in the test for spelling. The results showed the group of children with two biological parents had the most spelling words correct before, during, and after the ROC program, only slightly better than the rest. Overall, all groups made little progress throughout the program. The children with one biological parent missed the most spelling words during and after the ROC program. The main effect of family structure was significant. None of the interaction effects between time and family structures were significant.

On the other hand, children with no biological parents had the highest reading levels out of the three groups before and during the program. During the final testing session, the children with 2 biological parents surpassed the other three groups with the reading levels, but did not miss the least number of sight words. In the final testing the children with only one biological parent missed the least amount of sight words. Unfortunately, these children missed the most comprehension questions, but the children with two biological parents missed the least number of comprehension questions. These children also had the highest sight word levels throughout the program and missed the least number of sight words, until the very end when the children with no biological parents, missed the least. There was a significant main effect for reading, F(1, 20) = 9.43, p = .006. There was also a significant main effect for spelling, F(2, 40) = 7.00, p = .002. The main effect for comprehension only approached significant, F(2, 38) = 3.01 , p = .061. The last significant main effect was sight words, F(2, 38) = 14.12, p = < .001.

A second aspect of this study involved 13 children who completed the ROC program for 2 years. These 13 children represent the three different types of family structures in this study. Children living with no biological parents started with the highest level for spelling words, next, were children with two biological parents, and children with no biological parents had the lowest level of spelling. After being in the program for 2 years, all of the children had improved in the level of spelling. Also, the children stayed in the same rank as in the beginning which means the children all improved about the same. Another interesting finding is children who had no biological parents missed the least amount of spelling words throughout the entire program. This trend continues through the reading level, the amount of reading comprehension missed, and level of sight words. There was a significant main effect for reading, F(4, 36) = 3.28, p = .022. There was also a significant main effect for spelling, F(4, 36) = 2.97, p = .032. A significant main effect was not found for comprehension, F(4, 36) = 0.99, p = .428. The last significant main effect was sight words, F(4, 32) = 2.70, p = .048. The participants who completed the additional participation in the ROC program showed greater improvement in literacy.

In concern with the original hypothesis of children who participated in the ROC, living with two biological parents would show greater improvement in reading, spelling, and comprehension; the amount of sight words missed showed support. The children who lived with two biological parents went from missing the most sight words, to missing the least amount after the 2 years. The amount of reading missed also supported this hypothesis due to the children living with two biological parents missed the largest number of words while reading in the beginning of the ROC program and then missed the least amount after 2 years.

Discussion

There was no support for the hypothesis that children who participated in the ROC and who lived with two biological parents would show greater improvement in reading, spelling, and comprehension. All three groups had similar scores for the pretests, midtests, and posttests. There was also no interaction with time and all groups showed similar changes over the course of the program. All the children improved despite their type of family structure; one biological parent, two biological parents, or three biological parents.

There are many reasons for the hypothesis to not be supported. The hypothesis may have been correct but the problem may lie in the study itself. There are many different confounding variables. Some of these include: the sex of the child, any extra help, the type of school, grade, age, race, and the amount of levels held back. Gender was an aspect looked at during this study, in order to help explain the results. A statistical significance was the found for the race of the children living with one biological parent; there were more females than males. Out of these children, more females read better than males.

Concerning the ages of the participants, the participants were the ages of 5 and 8 years old. Of these children, only 3 out of the 17 participants had some sort of after school care which involved which involved community-based and free after-school care for low socio-economic neighborhoods. In fact, one child who was 8 years old, participating from a community-based after-school program made the lowest scores in spelling by missing the most words. Also, one participant who was placed in an out of home placement, made the lowest scores of all the children which made the scores skewed. Concerning the schooling, only five out of the 34 participants were home schooled. These participants were about the same in dealing with overall scores within the group. For future studies, these different confounding variables should be looked into in detail in order to determine which makes the most impact on the child. The concept behind the ROC program is to help all children learn how to read in order to better their lives now and in the future. The ROC program is able to accomplish this goal by having all children start at the same beginning step (E. Clanton Harpine, personal communication, May 8, 2014).

A follow-up study is planned to commence this fall 2014 and results are planned to be reported in TGP.

References

Clanton Harpine, E. (2013). After-School Prevention Programs for At-Risk Students. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-7416-6

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/

Gayán, J., & Olson, R. K. (2001). Genetic and environmental influences on orthographic and phonological skills in children with reading disabilities. Developmental Neuropsychology, 20, 487–511.

Hatcher, P. J., Hulme, C., Miles, J. V., Carroll, J. M., Hatcher, J., Gibbs, S., & … Snowling, M. J. (2006). Efficacy of small group reading intervention for beginning readers with reading-delay: A randomised controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47(8), 820-827. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01559.x

Petrill, S. A., Deater-Deckard, K., Schatschneider, C., & Davis, C. (2005). Measured environmental influences on early reading: Evidence from an adoption study. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9(3), 237-259. doi:10.1207/s1532799xssr0903_4

South Carolina State Department of Education. (2014). Retrieved from https://ed.sc.gov

Zima, B. T., Bussing, R., Freeman, S., Yang, X., Belin, T. R., & Forness, S. R. (2000). Behavior problems, academic skill delays and school failure among school-aged children in foster care: Their relationship to placement characteristics. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9(1), 87-103. doi:10.1023/A:1009415800475