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H. Shamir, K. Feehan, E. Yoder

Waterford Research Institute (UNITED STATES)
Family income and student performance on reading standardized test performance show the widening income achievement gap between low- and high-income families (Reardon, 2013): Only thirty-six percent of American students scored at or above proficiency in average reading scores in 2015 (NAEP, 2015). This low, stagnant percentage of students scoring at or above reading proficiency is troubling, for students shift from learning to read to reading to learn in third grade (Hernandez, 2011).

The Waterford Early Reading Program (ERP) is a computer-assisted instruction program that ensures individualized learning for kindergarten through second grade students. Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) is a form of educational technology that presents instructional material in various forms to make learning more dynamic. CAI technology allows individual students to take control of their learning which increases students’ flexibility, interactivity, and engagement (Jethro, Grace, & Thomas, 2012; Vernadakis, Avgerinos, Tsitskari, & Zachopoulou, 2005). Overall, previous research has shown that CAI technology can improve the early literacy skills of at-risk children and children with reading disabilities, but further research is needed to investigate the impact of and evaluate the developmental appropriateness of CAI technology when incorporated into the classroom (Vernadakis, et al., 2005).

This study consisted of 1,114 first and second grade students enrolled in a public school district in Indiana during the 2015-2016 school year. In the experimental group, students were expected to use ERP for thirty minutes per day, five days per week; the control group consisted of students who did not use ERP during the 2015-2016 school year. Students were administered the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).

Analysis revealed statistically significant higher percent gains from beginning of year DRA scores to end of year DRA scores made by first grade and second grade students that used ERP. Across demographics, students in the experimental group outperformed students in the control group on end of year scores in both grades. Multiracial students in the experimental group significantly outperformed control students in second grade, and students with free and reduced lunch status in the experimental group significantly outperformed control students in second grade. Overall, these findings suggest that CAI, when combined with an existing school curriculum, assist elementary school students in acquiring the early literacy skills needed to succeed in school more than school curriculum alone.