INSPIRED PRESCHOOL PROJECT EVENS OUT WHITE, BLACK AND HISPANIC, BUT ASIANS
REMAIN OUT IN FRONT
INSPIRED -- A PROJECT INSPIRED BY NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
Monday, August 23, 3004
by Jimmy Kilpatrick
"Although they started out with different performance levels, by the
end of the year, African American students, Caucasian students, and
Hispanic students were performing approximately equally. Thus, there
is some evidence that the INSPIRED project is helping to "level the
playing field" for disparate groups of students. However, one other
major ethnic group in the INSPIRED project was made up of Asian /
Pacific Islanders who were performing at higher levels than other
students in winter and continued to perform at higher levels in the
spring. This suggests that there is still room for improvement in the
04-05 school year. "
Sebastian Wren, the Program Associate for Reading at the Southwest
Educational Development Laboratory in Austin, Texas, has been personally
involved with INSPIRED, a very successful pre-school and day-care project in
Round Rock Independent School District, Round Rock, Texas.
Wren recently concluded, "Although they started out with different
performance levels, by the end of the year, African American students,
Caucasian students, and Hispanic students were performing approximately
equally. Thus, there is some evidence that the INSPIRED project is helping
to 'level the playing field' for disparate groups of students."
"If the INSPIRED Project approach can help reduce this gap it will have
provided great service to education," Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Senior Lecturer
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Wren has summarized the project as follows:
The preliminary assessments to ascertain individual reading and language
skills were collected in the winter of 2003-2004. The pre-school and
day-care teachers participating in the Round Rock INSPIRED project then
received a substantial amount of training in instructional activities that
support the development of early reading and language skills.
By the end of the school year in 2004, students had made substantial gains
in the various reading-related skills that were assessed. A total of 259
students were tested both in the winter and spring of the 03-04 school years
in a variety of reading-related tasks, including name writing, concept of
word, print knowledge, alphabet knowledge, verbal memory, rhyme awareness,
and beginning sound awareness.
In the winter, students were already fairly proficient with the name writing
task and the verbal memory task, so there was not a great deal of room for
improvement on those tasks. In the other tasks, however, students improved
significantly from winter to spring, with the greatest gains being recorded
in the alphabet knowledge tasks.
Approximately half of the students who participated in the 03-04 INSPIRED
Project were Hispanic, and in the winter, Hispanic students performed more
poorly than Caucasian students on most of the reading-related tasks. By
spring, both Caucasian students and Hispanic students had made significant
gains, but the Hispanic students had made more dramatic gains, closing the
gap with the Caucasian students. The same is true of the African American
students who made up 11% of the student population.
Although they started out with different performance levels, by the end of
the year, African American students, Caucasian students, and Hispanic
students were performing approximately equally. Thus, there is some
evidence that the INSPIRED project is helping to "level the playing field"
for disparate groups of students.
However, one other major ethnic group in the INSPIRED project was made up of
Asian / Pacific Islanders who were performing at higher levels than other
students in winter and continued to perform at higher levels in the spring.
This suggests that there is still room for improvement in the 04-05 school
year. With a full year of explicit instruction from the INSPIRED teachers,
it is expected that gains in the 04-05 school year will be enhanced over
gains that were observed in the previous school year.
Catherine Davis is the coordinator for INSPIRED. She participated in the
following Q & A:
Question #1: What is the background on the grant and what are the
expectations from the district?
Answer #1: Round Rock
Independent School District was one of thirty grants awarded in cycle two of
the Early Reading First program. We are one of three sites in Texas chosen
competitively from 800 applications nation-wide. As with all Early Reading
First grants our goal is to provide intensive reading instruction that is
grounded in scientifically based reading research as acknowledged by the
National Reading Panel's report. We expect the children participating in
our program will be ready to start kindergarten as well as if not better
than their more economically advantaged peers. We want our children to learn
to read on schedule.
Question #2: Which areas received the highest focus: teacher training,
assessment, or the intensity of instruction?
Answer #2: All three areas are receiving a focus. In a way, they are
integrated. Our literacy consultants are from area universities or a private
educational consulting firm who are well versed in early childhood research
and literacy acquisition and assessment. Our teacher professional
development is "embedded." This means the literacy consultant goes into our
teachers' classrooms and teaches a demonstration lesson with the INSPIRED
teacher's students. Teachers do not miss instructional time traveling to
observe other lessons, nor do they receive the traditional "sit and git"
professional development. They are learning the skills and strategies to
assist struggling pre-kindergarten children in context, i.e., their own
classroom. We have five focus areas of instruction: Phonological and
phonemic awareness; Alphabet knowledge; Concept of print/writing/prewriting;
Oral language development; and Oral comprehension/cognitive development.
Our teachers administer and evaluate the Phonological Awareness and Literacy
Screening test (PALS) from the University of Virginia data three times a
year to make instructional decisions for their children. In addition, our
teachers conduct on-going informal assessment using the Teacher Rating of
Oral Language and Literacy developed by David Dickinson, Center for Children
and Families, EDC.
Question #3: What outstanding team members are in place including
organizations and universities? What integral part has the Southwest
Educational Development Laboratory played?
Answer #3: Our partners in the project include The University of Texas at
Austin, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas State University and
the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL). UT Austin serves
as our external evaluator of the project. The other universities provide us
with literacy consultants. SEDL has played a major role as advisor for
assessment selection, administration, and data analysis. In addition SEDL
has assisted us with our website and video streaming project which should be
up by the end of August.
Question #4: What do you feel is the most critical area needing attention
and how did you go about addressing it?
Answer #4: One area needing the most concentration this past year was
curriculum alignment and assessment. It was one of our districts' focus
areas for the year, and the INSPIRED project targeted those areas of need as
Question #5: The classroom teachers must be very appreciative of all the
additional attention and expert assistance which they have received this
past year. Can you share some of the feedback from teachers?
Answer #5: The teachers have grown so much this year. I would like to share
a couple of quotes from interviews conducted by our external evaluator: "I
realize now how many ways literacy can be brought into the Pre-K classroom.
I have learned so much already." (Taken from a November reflection journal
from a zero year experienced teacher). This came from an experienced
teacher: "The students seem much stronger this year in literacy skills.
This, I think, is due to the quality of the lesson plans that give us
consistency in our teaching." Finally another teacher commented, "I'm
getting very diversified lessons on such important things as phonemic
awareness and letter recognition that are developmentally appropriate and
appealing. Best of all, they make it easy for me to accomplish. I call it
'workshop light' because they work with my kids, and my kids benefit."
Question #6: Are you looking forward to the coming year? What will be some
areas upon which you will focus?
Answer #6: We will continue to focus on the five instructional focus areas
listed above as well as our on-going informal monitoring of student
progress. We will continue to demonstrate for teachers how to have small
group and individual instruction in a Pre-K classroom.