The Effects of Reading Workshop on First Grade Students' Independent Reading Levels
Baker, Christin 1981-
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In 2001, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act brought literacy achievement to the attention of schools across the nation. NCLB forced schools to reexamine their current teaching practices and ensure that students are making adequate progress in reading (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 20 U.S.C. §6312, 2002). According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (2007), 70% of fourth grade students in Texas are at basic or below basic achievement levels in reading, based on their levels of comprehension (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). This state-wide problem raises concern for districts that must show adequate yearly progress. Therefore, the challenge is for districts to come up with new teaching strategies to get students beyond basic level reading skills. This study examined the effects of implementing Reading Workshop, a learner-centered approach to teaching reading. In a review of the literature, very few rigorous research studies have been conducted on Reading Workshop in the early childhood years. In addition, no studies to date have examined its effects on students’ independent reading levels. As a result, this study examined the following research questions: 1) What are the effects of a Reading Workshop pilot program on first grade students’ independent reading levels compared to students in a balanced literacy program, and 2) What are the effects of Reading Workshop on various subpopulations of students (i.e. gender, at-risk, economically disadvantaged, and English as a Second Language)? This study examined first grade students from a large school district in Texas. The sample was taken from 12 Reading Workshop pilot schools (N = 2,013) and 12 non-pilot schools (N = 2,240) of similar socioeconomic status. The pilot schools served as the experimental group and the non-pilot schools served as the control group. A series of statistical tests was conducted to answer the research questions. First, a dependent groups t-test was used to compare the beginning and end of year data within each group to determine if the schools made significant progress. Next, an independent groups t-test was used to determine if any significant difference exists between the groups (pilot vs. non-pilot). Then, the same two t-tests were used for each of the subpopulations (gender, ESL, at-risk, economically disadvantaged, and ethnicity) to determine if any difference exists. When analyzed separately, results indicated that both the pilot and non-pilot group made significant progress from the beginning to the end of the school year in regards to student independent reading levels. This was also true for each student subpopulation identified. When the pilot and non-pilot groups were compared, there was not a significant difference between the students’ independent reading levels at the end of the year. However, among the subpopulations, there was a statistically significant difference in the scores of ESL and economically disadvantaged students from the pilot and non-pilot group. ESL students scored significantly higher in the pilot schools, while economically disadvantaged students scored significantly higher in the non-pilot schools. This study demonstrates that balanced literacy alone and balanced literacy with the addition of Reading Workshop are both effective in increasing students’ independent reading levels from the beginning to the end of the school year. In addition, they are both effective in increasing students’ independent reading levels in each of the subpopulations.