Supplemental Instruction in Decoding Skills for Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Students in Early Elementary School: A Follow-up

By: B. Gunn, K. Molkowski, A. Biglan, and C. Black

Background Information

The importance of early literacy is central to the Leave No Child Behind education policy and has been well documented in research (Cunningham & Stanovick, 1998, Hall & Moats, 1992). Children who are behind their classmates often remain significantly behind throughout school. Poor reading skills affect other content areas of learning as well.

Students who fail to catch up are frequently referred to remedial or special education programs. Among Spanish speaking children this is of particular concern. (Fitzgerald, 1995) indicates that Spanish speaking students have lower levels of reading and are at high risk for academic failure. Between 1976 and 1994 the number of Hispanic children with learning disabilities increased from 24% to 51% among all students with learning disabilities (President's Advisory Commission, 1996).

The authors note that research on beginning reading has identified the processes underlying reading. Methods of optimal instruction, however, have been difficult to identify.

The current study, therefore, looked at the effect of supplemental reading instruction; for example, intensified instruction a student might receive from an organization outside of school. Trained instructional assistants provided supplemental instruction in the study reported.

The original study found that "children who received the supplemental reading instruction performed significantly better on measures of word attack skills at Time 2 and on measures of word attack, word identification, oral reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension at Time 3. There were no differences in the effectiveness of instruction as a function of Hispanic students' level of English proficiency or as a function of student gender or grade."


Follow-up data is reported. Hispanic and non-Hispanic students, K-3, were screened for reading level using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). Students were from the Schools and Homes partnership (SHIP), a project in Oregon. 142 were boys, 114 were girls. 62% of the students were Hispanic and 38% were non-Hispanic. Testing was done in English. Outcome measures were obtained from an oral reading fluency test and from the Woodcock Johnson Revised Tests of Achievement.


  • Regardless of the student's initial English language, supplemental instruction increased word attack and literacy levels of oral reading fluency and passage comprehension.
  • The child's dominant language at the beginning of instruction was not a factor that limited his/her ability to benefit from the supplemental instruction.
  • Reading Mastery and Corrective Reading approaches were of greatest value to the students. These are characterized by direct instruction, teacher modeling and immediate feedback to the students.
  • Children, on average, in the current study, though having made gains, were still reading below average.
  • Effects of the supplemental instruction were evident one year after instruction ended- especially in the areas of oral verbal fluency. Almost significant results were also obtained for Vocabulary and Comprehension for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic students.

Bottom line

The study supports the use of supplemental instruction and indicates gains continue to exist even if instruction ends. Results do not indicate that instruction results in reading commensurate with age and grade. More intense instruction may have achieved greater gains.



Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

Cunningham, A. E., and K. E. Stanovich. "What reading does for the mind." The American Educator, (Spring/Summer 1998): 8-15. (American Federation of Teachers).

Fitzgerald, J (1995) English-as-a-Second Language reading instruction in the United States: A research review. Journal of Reading Behavior, 27, 115-152.

Gunn, B., Molkowski, K., Biglan, A., C. Black(2002). Journal of Special Education, 36,2,69-79.