Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

The Effects of Response to Intervention on Literacy Development in Multiple-Language Settings

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

The Effects of Response to Intervention on Literacy Development in Multiple-Language Settings

Article excerpt

Abstract. This descriptive study documents the effects of response-to-intervention type practices in four first-grade classrooms of English learners (ELs) from 11 native languages in three schools in a large urban school district in southern California. Observations and interviews in four classrooms across two consecutive years were compared to first-grade gains in oral reading fluency (N = 111). Reading fluency data were examined in relation to ratings of literacy practices, including the degree to which Tier 1 alone or Tier 1 plus Tier 2-type instruction was implemented. The correlation between classroom ratings on the English Learners Classroom Observation Instrument (ELCOI) and gain from pre- to posttest in first grade on oral reading fluency was moderately strong in both Year 1 (r = .61) and Year 2 (r = .57). The correlation between Cluster II teacher ratings and ORF gains was strong in both Year 1 (r = .75) and Year 2 (r = .70), suggesting a strong relationship between Tier 2-type literacy practices and end-of-first-grade oral reading fluency. Results indicated a strong correlation (r = -.81) between the number of students below DIBELS benchmark thresholds at the end of first grade and the teacher rating on the amount of instruction provided for low performers. Followup data at the end of third grade in oral reading fluency and comprehension indicate moderate correlations to first-grade scores (N = 51). Patterns of practice among first-grade teachers and patterns among ELs who were ultimately labeled as having learning disabilities are discussed. Educational implications and recommendations for future research are also presented.


Much has been written about the compounded risks for students who come to school speaking a language other than English (August & Siegel, 2006; National Center for Educational Statistics, 2006). Response to intervention (RTI) may hold promise for all children who are struggling to learn to read (Vaughn & Fuchs, 2003), including English learners (ELs). If done well, RTI provides a series of supports and instructional safety nets to assist students in the learning process. Potentially, RTI is a better system than waiting for students to fail (Foorman & Torgesen, 2001; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2003).

A growing body of research (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Wooley, 2002; Droop & Verhoeven, 2003; Echevarria & Graves, 2007; Fletcher, Coulter, Reschly, & Vaughn, 2004; Gersten, Baker, Haager, & Graves, 2005; Graves, Gersten, & Haager, 2004; Graves, Placentia-Peinado, Deno, & Johnson, 2005; Gunn, Biglan, Smolkowski, & Ary, 2000; Haager & Windmueller, 2002; Jimenez & Gersten, 19999; Lesaux & Siegel, 2003; LinanThompson, Vaughn, Hickman-Davis, & Kouzekanani, 2003) has demonstrated that many of the strategies and approaches that research deems effective for native speakers of a language are effective for ELs as well. In fact, Chiappe et al. (2002) found that, in terms of phonemic awareness and word reading, ELs can learn to read as quickly as native English speakers. More recently, research on comprehension and vocabulary instruction is revealing the complexities that teachers of English learners must add to basic effective practices (August & Shanahan, 2006; Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, Kieffer, & Rivera, 2006).

In Southern California, the rise in both the number of ELs entering school and the number identified with learning disabilities is often noted (August & Siegel, 2006; Kindler, 2002). In the large urban school district in which this study was conducted, approximately 52 languages are spoken. In this investigation, the student population is referred to as a multiple-language group in that 11 native languages are represented as well as a wide variety of cultural groups. The focus is on four first-grade classrooms across two years.

The data for this investigation were drawn from a large study of several urban school districts in southern California conducted in the context of California Schools Literacy Reform by Russell Gersten and his research team (Instructional Research Group; inresg. …

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