STudent Achievement in Reading (STAR)
Country Profile: United States of America
|Total Expenditure on Education as % of GDP (2010)|
|Access to Primary Education – Total Net Enrolment Rate (NIR)|
|Programme Title||STudent Achievement in Reading (STAR) Programme|
|Implementing Organization||Kratos Learning (KL)|
|Language of Instruction||English|
|Funding||Federal Government (through the Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education) and State Governments|
|Date of Inception||2001–2014 (ongoing)|
Context and Background
Although the USA have made great strides in promoting universal access to education as manifested by the high literacy rates among all age groups (see above), a significant proportion of their adult population has low to moderate level proficiency in basic literacy. According to a recent study by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL, 2003), about 32 million adults in the USA – roughly one in seven – are unable to read and write. The study also revealed that about 49 per cent and 31 per cent of adults had, respectively, low and moderate level proficiency in basic literacy, indicating that they lacked the basic skills necessary to perform complex and challenging literacy activities. The enduring problem of adult illiteracy in the USA, but especially among members of socio-economically disadvantaged groups, is partly attributed to most educational institutions’ failure or unwillingness to effectively use evidence- or research-based reading instruction practices or strategies (see below) and innovative technologies to promote reading proficiency among learners. Thus, in an effort to address this challenge and, by extension, to equip adult learners with basic reading skills necessary not only to enable them to function in society but also to enrol for secondary and tertiary education, the Federal Government (through the Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education), contracted Kratos Learning (KL) to implement the STudent Achievement in Reading (STAR) Programme across the entire nation.
The STAR Programme
The STAR programme is a comprehensive reading instruction reform and professional training and development initiative which was instituted by KL in 2001 with substantial funding from the Department of Education and technical support from the National STAR Training Network (NSTN – the NSTN is a network of experts, policymakers and practitioners in reading instruction as well as KL project staff). 19 Federal States, with a total of 334 adult education projects, are currently participating in the STAR programme.
The STAR programme is based on the evidence-based reading instruction model which integrates findings from high quality research with the teachers’ professional expertise (such as their ability to assess and identify individual learners’ strengths and weaknesses and to tailor reading instruction practices accordingly) to maximise the learners’ reading skills achievements or competencies. The STAR programme is therefore designed to provide virtual and face-to-face training services and technical assistance to Adult Basic Education (ABE) instructors or teachers in order to enhance their knowledge about and capacity to effectively use evidence-based reading instruction strategies or practices to teach and assist adult learners to improve their reading skills. The training sessions are usually held in the state that is participating in the programme. The locations, e.g. schools, education centres or a hotel, depend on what is available or how much funding the state can invest to rent space. In order to achieve these fundamental goals, KL has developed four training modules and a web-based toolkit (see below), all of which are designed to equip adult teachers with a wide range of skills and competencies necessary for the successful and effective use of evidence-based instruction practices in the classrooms. These include:
- the key components of evidence-based reading instruction;
- tips, techniques, and tools for conducting diagnostic assessments and evidence-based reading instruction (EBRI);
- strategies and activities for teaching alphabetics, vocabulary, fluency and text comprehension;
- guidance on how to plan instruction to meet individual learners’ reading needs; and
- planning tools and strategies to empower organisations to successfully implement evidence-based reading instruction.
Aims and Objectives
As a comprehensive professional development and capacity-building programme, STAR has various integrated aims and objectives. In particular, the programme aims to:
- train and assist ABE teachers to use evidence-based reading instruction practices in order to enhance the reading achievements of intermediate-level adult learners;
- build State and local ABE systems in support of reading improvement for adults;
- enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of ABE systems in the country; and
- equip adult learners with basic reading skills to enable them to function independently in society.
Overall, the STAR programme endeavours to implement evidence-based instruction practices in order to provide adult learners with the reading skills they need to achieve their goals in school, at work and in their daily lives.
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
As noted above, the STAR programme is currently being implemented by KL in collaboration with the NSTN (which currently has six national trainers and 34 State-based trainers), the Federal Department of Education and participating States. These institutions are responsible for developing the training resources and implementing the programme in the States. For instance, while national trainers are responsible for training and mentoring State-based trainers, KL project staff are responsible for the overall implementation of the programme, including the development of training resources and recruitment and training of adult educators. In addition, each State is required to purchase the STAR training packages, recruit adult education instructors or practitioners and local programmes in order to participate in the STAR programme.
Development of the STAR Training Manuals and Toolkit
In order to achieve the outlined goals and objectives, KL – in collaboration with the NSTN and the Federal Department of Education – has designed and developed four training packages or modules and an online toolkit. These training resources are developed from the latest field research-based publications which have been subjected to a vigorous and diligent peer review process by experts and field professionals with extensive experience in, respectively, researching about adult education and reading instruction practices and providing training and technical assistance to adult educators. Of equal importance is the approval of the resources by the U.S. Department of Education and other specialised institutions.
There are currently four training packages being offered to participating States and institutes:
- the National Training and Technical Assistance package is a training model that involves the training of institutes through online learning and site-based technical assistance. It includes: three two-day in-state trainings on diagnostic assessment and EBRI for 45 participants and 13.5 days of onsite and offsite technical assistance including three visits to the State by a designated technical assistance provider. Institute training is delivered within a nine-month period;
- the STAR Trainer Certification package is a year-long training process that is primarily intended to produce in-State certified STAR trainers. Once certified, the State Trainers can provide STAR training and technical assistance to existing and new STAR programmes within their own States. The package includes: training, materials and online portfolio for up to four State-nominated trainers; a Training-of-Trainers event and coaching support for the certification candidates. Essentially therefore, this package is intended to empower States and institutes to expand and sustain the STAR programme;
- the Partner State Expansion package: the module allows established and certified in-State STAR trainers to work and co-train with a national trainer from the NSTN in order to help partner States to expand the STAR programme; and
- the STAR Coaching package is a trainer support model for State trainer certification candidates through on-site coaching, co-training, and technical assistance, as well as the STAR National Training and Technical Assistance service package for new participants.
In addition to these training modules, KL has also developed and granted participants lifelong access to a comprehensive online or web-based STAR Toolkit which provides them with technical assistance, including a wide variety of instructional and assessment resources and tools such as web-based chats and word games; conference calls with expert trainers and instructional demonstration videos (available at http://www.startoolkit.org). The toolkit is therefore intended to provide programme participants with up-to-date technical assistance in the use of evidence-based reading instruction practices through ongoing virtual learning.
Recruitment and Training of Trainees
Participating States – with technical assistance from State-based trainers and KL project staff – are responsible for nominating qualified candidates to train and become certified to provide STAR’s manual-based training services as well as ongoing technical assistance to adult educators within their States. The training of educators is based on learner-centred teaching-learning methods in order to ensure that participants effectively grasp the basic concepts and skills of evidence-based instruction practices. Each national and State-based trainer is tasked to train and mentor participants respectively in each of the aforementioned manuals (a total of about 45 trainees can be enrolled to participate in one training). Trainers are paid by the States in which they deliver STAR training services and technical assistance.
After the training, teachers are also assisted in the application of evidence-based instruction practices in the classrooms, for which KL provides ongoing onsite and virtual technical assistance. Furthermore, once teachers have completed the STAR training and acquired experience in implementing evidence-based reading instruction, they can apply to enter a year-long certification process to become STAR certified trainers within their State. States are also encouraged to acquire a host of local trainers who can further disseminate evidence-based reading instruction throughout that State, ensuring continuation and expansion of effective literacy instruction and self-sufficiency of the State.
Programme Impact and Challenges
Monitoring and Evaluation
The programme is currently being monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis to assess outcomes at two basic levels. The first level is professional development which involves the assessment of knowledge, understanding and learning achievements of STAR training participants. The second level involves an evaluation of the implementation of evidence-based instruction practices in the classrooms and the impact of the practices on learners’ skills acquisition competencies. To date, the programme has only been subjected to internal evaluation processes based on polling technology and participant self-evaluation strategies. A comprehensive evaluation will be undertaken by external or independent professional evaluators in 2014. The results of the external evaluation process will be used to assess how classroom instruction practices have changed as a result of the STAR programme as well as to inform strategies for improving the implementation of the programme.
Existing State reports (obtained through internal evaluation processes) indicate that the STAR programme is having positive impacts on professional development among adult educators, reforming reading instructional practices, as well as on adults’ attendance of literacy classes and reading skills achievements. Since the inception of the programme in 2001, the number of participating States has expanded from the initial 6 to 19; the number of in¬-State adult education institutions participating in the programme continues to expand within the 19 States (indicating an upward trend in State investment in the programme), about 2,185 adult education instructors have participated in the programme and the number of participants and online tool kit users is continuously growing. In addition, the STAR programme has also resulted in:
- increased learner retention rates in adult classes;
- improved learner outcomes in the four components of reading; and
- improved professional development of teachers: The STAR programme has resulted in improved levels of professionalism among teachers as manifested by improvements in levels of instructional strategic planning and time management, creation of an individualised learner profile for each student and the increased use of evidence-based reading instruction practices.
The implementation of the STAR programme in the 19 States has however also been encumbered by numerous challenges, the most critical being
- inadequate funding: although the Federal Government and States have been very supportive, available funding is still inadequate. This has hampered KLs’ ability to further expand the programme into other States and restricted its ability to develop more training resources. Lack of funding has also created travel restrictions for trainers and thus limited opportunities for the provision of face-to-face training; and
- lack of a unified policy strategy: despite the fact that the Federal government has seen the need of implementing reading instructional reforms, other States are still reluctant to follow suit. As a result, the uptake and purchase of the STAR programme by individual States has been slow. Apart from the lukewarm approach adopted by some States in instating reading instruction reforms, teachers have also been reluctant to institute evidence-based pedagogical practices.
Despite the challenges mentioned above, the long-term sustainability of the STAR programme is guaranteed because of:
- the growing Federal Government and State interest and investment in the programme;
- changing attitudes among adult education administrators and teachers with regard to the need to reform reading instruction practices;
- increases in the number of State-based certified trainers (this enables the States to independently self-sustain STAR training programme); and
- increased motivation and thus participation rates among adults to participate in classes that employ evidence-based reading instruction practices.
- Kratos Learning Solutions: http://www.kratoslearning.com; <www.startoolkit.org> and http://www.kratoslearning.com/ourwork/case-studies/student-achievement-in-reading-star.
- Kruidenier, J. (2002). Research-Based Principles for Adult Basic Education Reading Instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy, Partnership for Reading.
- Toppo, G. (2009), Literacy study: 1 in 7 U.S adults are unable to read this story. USA Today. Available online at http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-01-08-adult-literacy_N.htm
Director, Education Programmes
2920 South Glebe Road
Arlington, VA 22206, USA
Telephone: 703 863 0137
Fax: 703 299 4589
Email: User: laura.lanier
Host: (at) kratoslearning.com
Last update: 4 April 2012