A Study of How One Ontario School Board Used Peer Assisted Learning Strategies and Data-Informed Decision-Making to Address Reading Failure at Grade One
Mattatall, Christopher Andrew
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In this mixed-methods study I report on a three-part investigation related to reading intervention at Grade 1 in one Ontario school board during the 2009-2010 school year. First, I report the results that Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) had on the reading outcomes for all Grade 1 students (n = 436) in terms of sex, aboriginal status, and at-risk status. Second, I use progress monitoring benchmark data to show how students unresponsive to instruction may have benefitted from additional instruction generated from monthly data-informed In-School Team meetings. Third, I report on educators’ perceptions of how monthly data-informed In-School Team meetings influenced their knowledge, confidence, and willingness to plan additional reading interventions for students persistently at-risk for reading failure. Findings indicate that compared to previous years, when PALS was not used, students in this study made significantly greater gains in reading scores. Boys made similar gains to girls, First Nations students made similar gains to non First Nations students, and at-risk students closed the achievement gap slightly with their typically-achieving peers. For students who did not make adequate progress in reading throughout the year a logistic regression analysis of the data indicates that the best predictor of at-risk status is not a student’s sex or First Nations status, but their letter sound fluency and word identification fluency scores at the beginning of the school year. Findings also indicate that the slope of improvement in reading scores for nonresponders begins to increase once In-School Team meetings begin. Educators’ perceptions of how the monthly In-School team meetings influenced practice differed according to the perceived role that each held of his or her position, and according to the level of involvement, training, and access that each had to the data used in this study. The more professional development that educators had in the theory, use, and application of progress monitoring data the more likely they were to report that they were willing to use it to inform their practice. Likewise, the more access that educators had to the data in terms of collecting, viewing, and interpreting it, the more likely they were in reporting knowledge, confidence, and willingness to use it to plan additional interventions for students.