STAR Reading Training in Texas -
A Success Story With More Benefits to Come
In Texas, 56% of the students enrolled in adult education statewide during the 2007-2008 year were in ESL classes. Some of the programs along the Rio Grande River can be almost entirely ESL. When national leaders encouraged Texas to begin the STAR evidence-based reading institutes, many program and state leaders in Texas wondered if STAR would really be beneficial for Texas. Because the STAR training focuses on Adult Basic Education (ABE) students reading at the intermediate-low and intermediate-high levels (4–8.9 reading grade level equivalency), there was reason for doubt.
However, 27% of Texas students are assigned to intermediate-low and intermediate-high ABE classes, and the statewide completion rate for students in these classes averages about 35%. These students must improve their reading ability to move on to Adult Secondary Education classes or vocational training and certification programs. Texas decided to try STAR during the 2008 -2009 year and monitor the cohort as a pilot study to examine the relevance of the training for Texas teachers and students.
The Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL) was asked to manage the STAR Institutes in Texas and conduct the pilot study. TCALL is a Center within the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University, housed in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development.
The Texas STAR pilot includes 13 programs and 3 professional development centers. STAR was introduced to program directors during the July 2008 Texas Adult Education Administrators Institute. We recruited programs willing to meet the STAR recommendations of closed enrollment, administrative participation, and commitment to implementation. The trainings were planned for Houston, so we recruited most heavily in that area; however, 6 of the 8 service regions in Texas have participants. Both large urban programs and smaller rural programs are represented. Texas professional developers (GREAT Centers) were also recruited to become an integral part of ongoing support of implementation through technical support and participation in future training.
Some programs that we tried to recruit could not see how they could have teachers attend three separate two-day trainings during the year without disrupting classes significantly. Some programs worried about how the travel expense would impact their professional development budget, yet all of the programs knew that they needed to improve the way reading instruction was being delivered to students. They needed to improve student gains.
The three STAR institutes took place in October 2008, January 2009, and April 2009. Although TCALL is just now receiving the post-training questionnaire responses, they have been overwhelmingly positive. Both administrators and teachers have felt that the information gained through diagnostic testing is critical to planning appropriate reading instruction to meet the needs of each student. They also commented on the excellent instructional strategies used in the four major components of reading: alphabetics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. They also report good responses from students and feeling more confident about delivering appropriate instruction in reading.
Finally, when asked about the applicability of STAR reading diagnostic testing and instructional methods for ESL students, their responses have again been very positive. They feel the testing information will help target instruction so that the students can make gains more quickly. The instructional strategies in alphabetics, vocabulary, and fluency were mentioned as being very useful in instruction that provides support for ESL students.
In the 2009-2010 program year, Texas will invest in the next step in the national STAR Reading initiative --STAR Trainer Certification for up to four candidates who have successfully completed the state’s recently-concluded STAR Training initiative. These four individuals will attend a national Training of Trainers event in August, and complete all certification requirements within a 12-month period. Trainer Candidates will be required to conduct the STAR reading training within Texas during that 12-month period, creating a great opportunity for evidence-based professional development for another group of Texas teachers. For more information about STAR Trainings available around the state in 2009-2010, contact Ken Appelt at TCALL (firstname.lastname@example.org).