I’ve posted before about our Family Literacy Project, which provides home computers and Internet service to immigrant families. You can read several additional articles about it here that will share more about how we encourage families to use the computer together (a key reason, I believe, for the program’s success), as well as giving more detailed data. As readers of this blog know, the project won the 2007 International Reading Association’s Presidential Award For Reading and Technology.
We periodically perform English assessments on the students who have home computers and use our website one hour each day, along with giving the same tests to a control group of English Language Learner students who do not have Internet access at their home. We just finished the latest round. Before I share the results, let me give a chronology of our assessments:
We began a small pilot project about two-and-a-half years ago. We gave students clozes (fill-in-the-gap) assessments that evaluated vocabulary development and comprehension, along with reading fluency assessments to evaluate speed and decoding ability. After the first four months the students with home computers had twice the rate of improvement than the control group in their cloze scores. There was no difference in reading fluency.
We didn’t do assessments again until, with our School District’s help, we expanded the project to a much larger group six months later with similar assessments. Six months afterward, we tested both groups. Once again, students with the home computers scored twice the gain in vocabulary development and comprehension than the control group. In addition, though, this time they also scored three times the gain in reading fluency, too.
This leads me to the just-completed assessments. These measure an even larger group of students as our project expanded, as well as measuring score differences between last September and the end of this month — May. This time students with the home computers more than quadrupled the gain in cloze scores over those of the control group. Because of the much larger numbers of students involved, we just didn’t have it in us to do reading fluency assessments this time around.
I have a healthy skepticism when it comes to statistics — there are just so many other factors involved. That said, though, it does seem pretty clear that our Family Literacy Project is having a positive effect on students developing their English skills.