Associate 2004-05

Janet S Gaffney

Special Education


While the dominant educational, political, and media focus is on early literacy (kindergarten to grade 3), older students (grades 4-8) with persistent and significant difficulties in reading and writing experience the compounding effects of cumulative years of reading failure. Only concentrated instruction such as tutoring has the potential to substantially alter the learning trajectories of these older students. Yet tutoring is a particularly intensive form of teaching that requires a high level of expertise. To address these issues, Professor Gaffney and a colleague have developed “High-Impact Late Intervention in Reading and Writing,” a tutorial approach for students in grades 4-8 who are reading two or more years below grade level; they have guided cohorts of teachers to implement the intervention successfully. The intervention places dual emphasis on reading and writing because of the learning benefits that accrue by integrating these print-related processes. Teacher-tutors use a wide range of informational texts to increase the students’ comprehension and build up their background knowledge and vocabulary on unfamiliar topics. Concurrently, the teacher-tutors participate in a semester-long professional development that emphasizes teaching-learning interactions to help engage older readers and respond dynamically to the complex interplay of student, text, and task.

During her Center appointment, Professor Gaffney will describe and document the intervention in book form so that it can be shared more widely. She will also develop a research proposal to study the effectiveness of the intervention. The proposed study has several significant advantages over the original research. The design includes comparison groups of randomly selected students across multiple districts. Effectiveness measures will include observational assessments as well as standardized tests in word and text reading, spelling, comprehension, fluency, and composition. She will also include the results of state tests used as accountability measures for the “No Child Left Behind” initiative and will study the teacher-tutors’ development of expertise as well as their professional satisfaction.