A Comparison Study Of The Effectiveness Of The Lexia .

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A Comparison Study of the Effectiveness of theLexia Reading Programme.Mike NessEducational Psychologist, Ministry of EducationJosh CouperusEducational Psychologist, Ministry of EducationMatthew WilleySpecial Education Advisor/Advisor on Deaf Children, Ministry of EducationABSTRACTThis study evaluates the efficacy of the Lexia Reading(LR) programme with a cohort of 37 students in aDecile 1 primary school. The students were randomlyassigned to experimental (who used LR) and controlgroups (who did not use LR). The WIAT-II was used toprovide pre and post measures of literacy skills. Resultsindicated that students who used LR did not outperformstudents in the control group and no statisticalsignificance was found between the two groups atpost -test. The study discusses the evidence base thatLexia presents in support of LR and raises questions inrelation to LR efficacy. The study concludes that the LRcomputer programme’s evidence base and efficacy isequivocal.Research PaperKeywords: Evidence-based practice, literacy, readingINTRODUCTIONComputers are now ubiquitous in schools and as aresult there is an ever-growing number of computersoftware packages being marketed to schools. Someof these packages appear to offer effective solutionsto some of the most intractable problems faced byteachers and many, such as Lexia, now target studentswho might be described as presenting with specialneeds. As such, these programmes may appear veryattractive to schools. Packages are generally targetedat individual students underpinned by the rationalethat the students will benefit from Computer AssistedInstruction (CAI).When using a computer, students can be presentedwith auditory, visual and tactile-kinaesthetic stimulias they learn. Carlisle and Rice (2002) write thatCAI was primarily developed as a way of increasinginstructional time and practice for students withoutplacing further demands on teacher time. They furthernote that CAI enables instruction to be tailored toindividual students, can allow for self-paced learning,can provide immediate feedback to students and16KAIRARANGA – VOLUME 14, ISSUE 1: 2013that CAI can be both fun and engaging for students,especially for those who have reading difficulties.One other possible ‘benefit’ for the student is thatthey are withdrawn from classroom work which maybe of less interest to them than spending time on thecomputer. In this way CAI can be quite appealing tostudents.There has been extensive debate over the last 20years as to the effectiveness of CAI. Slavin, Cheung,Groff and Lake (2008) conducted a review of theliterature in relation to CAI. Of the eight studies thatwere reviewed (involving a total of 12,984 students)the overall weighted mean of the effect size of CAIprogrammes was 0.10. This is a very weak positivecorrelation and is on the verge of being negligible(Coolican, 2007). These findings are in line withpractice guidelines for reading instruction from theUS Department of Education’s Institute of EducationSciences, which found that while there was littleevidence to show that CAI was effective, CAI wasan area that could have some potentially positiveeffects for students who used it (US Department ofEducation, 2010).Lexia Reading is one of the main programmesmarketed by Lexia Learning Systems (LLS). LexiaReading (LR) is a computer-based supplementaryreading tool aimed at improving reading skills. It hasan age range of 4 years to adult (and can also be usedfor ESOL students). LR is designed to supplement andcomplement classroom instruction; however it can beused as a stand-alone tool (Lexia Learning Systems,2006). LR uses games and interactive activities to“build skills with explicit practice in phonemicawareness and phonics while promoting gains invocabulary, fluency and comprehension” (LexiaLearning Systems 2010, p.2).As students begin LR they are placed at a level thatmatches their ability. In order to progress throughthe levels they are required to complete tasks, whichthey must achieve before being able to move on to ahigher level.

Within the Lexia programme a multisensory approachis intended to engage learners with the material.Students use headphones to listen to words/wordsounds, and then interact with the computer, using amouse to click on images to provide responses to thequestions related to the word/sound. Other exercisesdo not require the students to listen to sounds/wordsbut rather to complete the task on the screen usingthe mouse or keyboard.Lexia offer three main sources of supportinginformation by way of providing an evidence base:the first is peer- reviewed journal articles and thesecond is testimonial studies largely written by RTLBsand schools. Lastly, the company offers a webinar.There are three articles, cited on the Lexia website,from peer-reviewed academic journals. In exploringthis evidence it appears that these articles wereall written following extensive work in the UnitedStates of America with a group of public schools inRevere, Massachusetts (Macaruso, Hook & McCabe2006; Macaruso & Rodman 2009; Macaruso &Walker 2008). It appears that Lexia was given a rareopportunity to tailor-make their programme to fit withthe schools’ curriculum. These three studies appear tosupport the value for students who accessed the Lexiaprogramme, particularly those students who werefurthest behind (described as ‘at risk’).There are a number of studies which have been writtenby Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB),schools and a single personal testimonial which Lexiacurrently place on their website. These studies presentinformation which is highly supportive of the Lexiaprogramme.Lexia also claim that the What Works Clearinghouseand the Florida Centre for Reading Research havepositively evaluated the Lexia programmes.The research team was invited to attend a webinarhosted by LR (a combined telephone/internet tutorialand discussion). During the Webinar the research teamasked what progress might be expected from studentswho used LR. The LR representative confirmed thatwe might expect to see one years progress in one term(most likely in ‘at risk’ students) for students who usedLR.Schools with a high demand for literacy teachingcould be considered as the target for the presentationof this positive evidence. In particular, schools maywell feel that the amount of teacher-time they areable to direct to raising literacy is limited, and thepromise of having the process automated to someextent can easily be seen as attractive. In particular,Lexia’s summary of the research shows potential:Weaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice. Lexia Reading Improves Reading Score in gradesK – 3 and Middle School Lowest Performing Students Benefit the Most fromusing Lexia Reading Title 1 Students Using Lexia Reading Close theAchievement Gap (Title 1 Students is a term usedin the USA. They are equivalent to NZ studentsfunctioning at Level 1 of the curriculum or below) Benefits of Lexia Reading are Tied to Strong UsePatterns Teachers Strongly Endorse Lexia Reading (LexiaInternational, 2011).Given the positive indications the research teamadopted the following hypothesis: given a single termof prescribed learning with LR, students will showsignificant improvement in literacy scores (one year inone term), when compared with students in a controlgroup. The null hypothesis is that despite access tothe Lexia programme (for the experimental group) nosignificant differences between the two conditions willbe found.METHODIn order to further inform Lexia’s claims the researchteam sought to explore Lexia’s efficacy with ‘at risk’students in a New Zealand educational context. Theteam were invited to help support a Decile 1 primaryschool which was considering purchasing the LexiaReading Programme. Lexia provides free of cost, anunlimited number of licences for the duration of a singleterm (10 weeks).ParticipantsForty students were identified, ten in each of fourcombined school year classes; Years 1-2, Years 3-4,Years 4-5, Years 5-6. All the children were identifiedby the school as ‘at risk’ in terms of their literacy i.e.their literacy was tracking at two years or more belowtheir chronological age. The ten students from eachclass were randomly assigned to the control or theexperimental condition. Two learners with English asan additional language were excluded from the studyand one learner left the school, leaving a total of 37participants.ProcedureThe students followed normal classroom programmesand curriculum with the exception that theexperimental group took part in LR for at least 100minutes per week for a single school term in 2010.Some students had significantly more time than this.KAIRARANGA – VOLUME 14, ISSUE 1: 201317

Additionally, the team sought to evaluate curriculumdata supplied by the school alongside the results ofthe WIAT-II pre and post tests. The researchers alsodevised a ‘Student Voice’ questionnaire to explorelearners’ self-perception and their enjoyment of theLexia programme. Interviews with members of theteaching staff were also conducted.MeasuresThe pre and post tests for the study were selected fromthe Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, (WIATII, 2nd ed,). This test was selected as it is arguablycomparable to the tests used in the three peerreviewed studies on the LLS research website (LexiaInternational, 2011). Adjustments were made to allowfor differences in the New Zealand and Australianeducation systems. For the administration of this test allfive year old students were treated as pre-schoolers (aspre-schoolers, the 10 five year old children were onlyadministered the Word Reading and Spelling subtests).The following tests and descriptions are taken directlyfrom the WIAT-II manual:Independent sample t tests on the pre-test databetween the control and experimental conditionsrevealed no significant differences across the fourWIAT-II subtests prior to beginning the trial.ResultsAll children achieved levels of Lexia usage that fellwithin the required range. Using the WIAT-II data,age equivalencies were calculated in months forthe purposes of data analyses. The following tablesshow the means and standard deviations across thetwo conditions and the four subtests. The differencebetween the pre and post test means are includedat the end of each table. Tables 1 and 2 record thecontrol and experimental data respectively, and Table3 allows comparison of the control and experimentalmeans across the four sub-tests.Word Readingg - assesses early reading (phonologicalawareness), word recognition and decoding skills.Reading Comprehension - assesses the types of readingcomprehension skills taught in the classroom or usedin everyday life.Spellingg - assesses the ability to write dictated letters,letter blends, and spell words.Pseudoword Decodingg - assesses the ability to applyphonetic decoding skills to ‘nonsense’ words.Table 1Mean scores and standard deviations across the control sub-tests (all values in months)SubtestWord ReadingSpellingReading ComprehensionPseudoword rencebetween means3.06-2.82-2.550.73Table 2Mean scores and standard deviations across the experimental sub-tests (all values in months)SubtestWord ReadingSpellingReading ComprehensionPseudoword een means-34.30.83-12.36Table 3Comparison of means between the control and experimental conditions (all values in months)SubtestWord ReadingSpellingReading ComprehensionPseudoword decoding18KAIRARANGA – VOLUME 14, ISSUE 1: 2013Control st mean79.274.576.6786.86Control test mean76.278.877.574.5

A student voice questionnaire was also administeredas an additional information source. The results areincluded in Appendix A.The curriculum data supplied by the school was notcomplete at the end of the study and has therefore notbeen included in the results section.When the independent sample t-tests were repeatedon the post-test data between the experimental andcontrol conditions across the four WIAT-II subtests,no statistical significance was found. The results donot serve or support any significant advantage forthe experimental group. The null hypothesis musttherefore be accepted that despite access to the Lexiaprogramme (for the experimental group) no significantdifferences between the two conditions were found.DiscussionFrom a Lexia standpoint these results would appearto be very disappointing. The cohort of 37 ‘at risk’readers who completed the trial would arguablybe Lexia’s target group. These learners all workedon Lexia at or above the minimum amount of timerequired by the programme as stipulated by Lexia fora period of a school term, which is supported by thetrial period offered by Lexia to schools. In searchingfor a rationale for the uninspiring results generated bythis research it seems important to revisit the evidencebase in a little more detail.The testimonial research, as it is presented onLexia’s website, is typically narrative rather thanexperimental. Whilst acknowledging the excellentintentions of these projects, the research teamfound that there is little or no evidence of rigorouslyapplied methodologies, the use of control groups,pre and post measures or statistical analysis. Theresearchers therefore struggled to see how they mightconvincingly support the evidence-base for Lexia.In support of LR, the LLS website states “the WhatWorks Clearinghouse (WWC) finds Lexia Readingto be effective, meeting the WWC researchstandards” (Lexia International, 2011). The WWCwas established in 2002 by the US Departmentof Education’s Institute of Education Sciences toprovide professions with guides to the effectivenessof programmes, practice guidelines and policiesconcerning education, including literacy andnumeracy. LLS claims that the Lexia Readingprogramme is one of only ten programmes thatmeets the evidence standards set out by the WWCand shows “positive or potentially positive effectsin at least two of the four beginning reading skills(alphabetics, comprehension, fluency and generalreading achievement)” and “Based on the studiesWeaving educational threads. Weaving educational practice.reviewed by WWC, Lexia Reading was found to havepotentially positive effects on alphabetics and readingcomprehension, and showed statistically significanteffects in general reading achievement for subgroupsof at-risk students” (Lexia International, 2011).The researchers examined the What WorksClearingHouse report pertaining to Lexia Reading.LLS presented 11 studies to the WWC for evaluation.Of these 11 studies, only two met the evidencestandards with one further study meeting theevidence standards with reservations (US Departmentof Education, 2009). The other eight studies didnot meet the evidence standards due to flaws inresearch design, methodology or conclusions.The WWC report determined that the evidencein support of the Lexia Reading programme to be“small for alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, andgeneral reading achievement” (US Department ofEducation, 2009). The WWC found that the LexiaReading programme had “potentially positive effectson alphabetics, no discernable effect on fluency,potentially positive effects on comprehension, and nodiscernable effects on general reading achievement”(US Department of Education, 2009). This appears tobe at odds with the statements made by LLS.On closer examination the team found the threeMacaruso studies are far from unequivocal. Macaruso(2006) in the first of the trio of studies available,worked with 179 students from ten first grade classes,allocated to experimental and control conditions.Initially no significant difference was foundbetween these two groups which was disappointingconsidering the advantages of matching Lexiadirectly to a literacy curriculum over a six monthperiod. Macaruso et al., (2006) note this apparentfailure and embark upon further analysis. Theseendeavours did reveal that there was apparently asignificant advantage for those in the experimentalgroup described as ‘at risk’ (also known as Title 1Students in the USA) when compared with the samegroup of students in the control group. However,this advantage was only found for ‘letter soundcorrespondences’ in contrast to ‘recognising basicstory words’ where no significant advantage wasfound.The second study (Macaruso et al., 2008) examinesLexia in kindergartens. Encouragingly, the studyclaims to have shown significant differences betweenthe experimental and control conditions. However,the research team noted that the pre and post testmeasures used were not the same. Instead, allchildren were tested on a reading test (the GatesMcGinitie) by way of identifying differences onlyat the end of the Lexia programme. This provedKAIRARANGA – VOLUME 14, ISSUE 1: 201319

very difficult for the research team to overlookand arguably the team did not agree with therationale shared in the study for this aspect of theirmethodology.It would seem important for the research team toacknowledge that testing is seldom perfect and theuse by the researchers of a test standardised on anAustralian population is not, arguably, an ideal methodof measurement. However it has only been used withinthis study’s specific experimental methodology. It hasnot been compared with other data gathered by theschool or post hoc tests. Furthermore, the adjustmentfor ages discussed in the introduction provides someprotection from the influence of age on literacy ability.The team aspired to include school curriculum dataon reading development to further inform the study.However, this data was incomplete at the time thestudy finished and has therefore not been included.The third Macaruso study appears to build on Lexia’sapparent benefit for a cohort of 47 sixth and seventhgrade middle school students with identifiable specialneeds in the area of literacy. The participants aredescribed as ‘attending remedial reading classes’.In contrast to the previous study, Macaruso et al.,(2009) employs the Woodcock-Johnson III Testsfor Achievement. This standardised test has sevensubtests and has been standardised alongside theWIAT-II used in the present study. Through the useof statistical analysis, Macaruso et al. was only ableto show a significant advantage for the experimentalgroup for the Word Attack sub-test. No significantdifferences were found in any of the other six areastested (letter-word identification, reading fluency,reading vocabulary, passage comprehension, oralcomprehension and spelling). In making this claimthe researchers noted that in the area of word attackthe control group’s mean scores pre to post droppedfrom 87.7 to 85.3. As the post-test score for theexperimental group was 88.3 it is not difficult to seethat the apparent reversal of the control group hashelped to make the findings significant. The questionof why the control group made negative progress inthis area is not fully explored.A preference for simple statistical analysis might beseen by some as a potential weakness of the presentstudy. In the Macaruso studies a number of tests andinvestigations were conducted with skill and rigour.However the present research group would arguethat from the way in which Lexia is marketed the datagathered should be unequivocally in favour of thosestudents in the experimental condition. In reading thediscussion sections of the Macaruso articles it becomesclear that there are some very strong claims made infavour of the Lexia programme but these would not20KAIRARANGA – VOLUME 14, ISSUE 1: 2013appear to be fully supported by the results.By way of support for schools, Askov and Bixler offer alist of criteria by which to evaluate the appropriatenessof computer software

A Comparison Study of the Effectiveness of the Lexia Reading Programme. Mike Ness Educational Psychologist, Ministry of Education Josh Couperus Educational Psychologist, Ministry of Education Matthew Willey Special Education Advisor/Advisor on Deaf Children, Ministry of Education ABSTRACT This study evaluates the efficacy of the Lexia Reading

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