Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Effects of a Peer-Mediated Program on Reading Skill Acquisition for Two-Way Bilingual First-Grade Classrooms

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Effects of a Peer-Mediated Program on Reading Skill Acquisition for Two-Way Bilingual First-Grade Classrooms

Article excerpt

Abstract. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of a supplemental peer-mediated reading program on reading achievement of first graders (N = 76) in a two-way bilingual immersion (TWBI) program. Nearly 80% of students were Hispanic; of these, 24 were identified as English language learners (ELLs). Classrooms were randomly assigned to peer-assisted learning strategies (PALS) or contrast condition. PALS students participated in a 30-hour peer-mediated early literacy intervention that was conducted three times a week. Results showed statistically significant differences, with large effect sizes favoring PALS on phoneme segmentation fluency, nonsense word fluency, and oral reading fluency. Additionally, disaggregated results analyzed by subgroups (ELLs and English proficient) revealed a differential pattern in response to intervention. Implications of findings in relation to research and practice are discussed.

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Helping all students read on grade level is an ambitious goal, and it is particularly challenging for schools serving students with English as a second language, or English Language Learners (ELLs), who are also from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds (August & Hakuta, 1998; Donovan & Cross, 2002). In the past decade, the number of ELLs in American schools has increased nearly 70% to 5.5 million (Donovan & Cross, 2002; U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, 2004). Eighty percent of ELLs have Spanish as their first language (McCardle, Mele-McCarty, Cutting, Leos, & D'Emilio, 2005) and are twice as likely as native English-speaking peers to have reading achievement levels significantly below average for their age (August & Hakuta, 1998). In fact, nearly 60% of Spanish-speaking fourth-grade students cannot read English at even a basic level (August & Hakuta, 1998). There is consensus that ELLs' reading development is constrained by their limited academic language (August & Hakuta, 1998; August & Shanahan, 2006; Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer, & Rivera, 2006).

Improving reading outcomes for Hispanic children, regardless of their English proficiency, is critical for several closely related reasons. For example, Hispanic students are more often retained, are disproportionately represented in special education programs (Shepherd, 2000), and are three times more likely to drop out of school than Anglo/Caucasian students (August & Hakuta, 1998). Furthermore, improving reading achievement for all students is the goal of the Reading First Program of the Leave No Child Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB; P.L. 107-110 H.R.1). Under NCLB, selection of core reading programs and additional interventions is guided by scientifically based reading research (SBRR). SBRR derives largely from two important reviews of the literature on reading, Preventing Reading Difficulties (Snow, Burns, & Griffith, 1998) and the National Reading Panel report (NRP; 2000). These influential reports summarized 20 years of research demonstrating that reading difficulties can be prevented by explicitly and systematically teaching phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.

Although this research was conducted mainly with native English speakers, reviews of the literature on effective reading instruction of students with English as a second language, or English language learners (ELLs) found limited empirical evidence to support that the cognitive reading processes of second-language learners are different from those of native speakers (August & Hakuta, 1998; August & Shanahan, 2006; Fitzgerald, 1995; Genessee, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders, & Christian, 2006). Fitzgerald argued "there is little evidence to support the need for a special vision of second-language reading instruction" (2000, p. 520), other than the obvious need for assistance with vocabulary and comprehension support for grade-level reading materials. …

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