Use of discrete educational software products

Reading Comprehension Among Middle School Students (Grades K6-K8) in Title I Programs – Grant Proposal

Project Summary/Introduction

The purpose of this project is to increase reading comprehension among middle school students (grades K6-K8) in Title I programs at XYZ SCHOOL by providing high quality, engaging content through a mini classroom lab using interactive software from Plato Learning. These Title I students face challenges in developing vocabulary, locating and recalling information and reading for meaning and critical analysis.

Many research reviews have found evidence of a positive association between use of discrete educational software (DES) products and student achievement in reading (Murphy, Penuel, Means, Korbak & Whaley, 2001; Kulik & Kulik, 1991; Kulik, 1994; Fletcher-Flinn & Gravatt, 1995; Ryan, 1991). These findings reveal that middle school students as well as students with special reading needs are among the groups that benefit the most from DES applications. Further, XYZ SCHOOL’s own experience with computers has had a positive effect on student achievement, but limited capacity has constrained potential opportunities, particularly for Title 1 students.

The intent of the mini classroom lab for Title I program students is to enable Title students to finally achieve Title I program objectives so that they are on grade level in reading and meet state and local test standards. Further, the mini lab is meant to help overcome the frustration and resistance to learning that many Title I reading students have developed from constantly being behind other students.

2) Needs Statement

The Title I program at XYZ SCHOOL serves 90 out of the school’s 756 students. The demographics of Title I students in grades K6-K8 are markedly different from non-Title I students. Specifically,

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Title I students in grades K6-K8 are Black, compared to twenty-three percent (23%) of total students in these grades.

Twenty percent (20%) of Title I students in grades K6-K8 are Hispanic/Latino, compared to five percent (5%) of total students in these grades.

Eighty-five (85%) of Title I students in grades K6-K8 are receiving free or reduced-price lunches, compared to twenty-five percent (25%) of total students in these grades

Eighteen percent (18%) of Title I students in grades K6-K8 are Limited English Proficient (LEP) compared to three percent (3%) of total students in these grades.

The achievement gap between Title I students and non-Title students is one of the most persistent and frustrating problems at XYZ SCHOOL. With the majority of Title I students coming from economically disadvantaged and minority backgrounds, these children enter school with limited vocabulary and find it difficult to learn to read. Unfortunately, instead of catching up, these children appear to lose ground each year.

Data regarding this problem is as follows:

The overal gap in reading performance between Title I and non-Title students stands at 30 points or the equivalent of three grade levels.

Using the STAR Reading test in Spring 2006, ninety percent (90%) of Title I students were still reading below grade level.

At the end of the school year in 2006, ninety-one percent (91%) Title I students were found to be below proficient on state standards tests for reading and eighty-six percent (86%) were found to be below proficient on district assessments of reading. This compares to only four percent (4%) of non-title I students found to be below proficient on state standards tests and two percent (2%) of non-title I students found to be below proficient on district assessments.

Title I students have significantly lower overall classroom performance than non-Title I students. In 2006, forty percent (40%) of Title I students in grades K-6 through K-8 were retained vs. one percent (1%) of non-Title 1 students in the same grades.

Teachers frequently report that Title I students show less far less motivation than non-Title 1 students by the time they reach grade K-6 with many appearing to be frustrated and resistant to learning.

Title I students have shown enthusiasm for using computers and they have excelled when technology has been involved in previous learning experiences. However, XYZ SCHOOL only has 30 computers for 756 students. To make matters worse, non-Title I projects are typically given preference for having access to these scarce resources even though disadvantaged Title 1 students need them the most.

These findings indicate that XYZ SCHOOL needs to take additional steps to help close the achievement gap between Title I students and non-Title students and support the need for a more engaging, interactive learning environment through the use of a mini classroom lab using software from Plato Learning.

3) Goal and Objectives and Evaluation Measures

Goal: The goal of the mini lab classroom using Plato Learning software is to improve student learning through a coherent learning approach that make it easier and more interesting for Title I students to learn reading. The use of interactive software will make it possible for students to learn at their own pace, to revisit specific areas as needed, and to receive more immediate feedback on their progress.

Objective 1: By Spring 2008, the number of Title 1 students in grades K6-K8 who are reading at their grade level will increase by twenty percent (20%).

Evaluaton 1: The STAR Reading test will be administered in Spring 2008 and compared with the results of the Spring 2006 assessment.

Objective 2: By the end of the school year in 2008, Title 1 students in grades K6-K8 will improve their state standard scores for reading by fifteen percent (15%).

Evaluation 2: The scores of Title 1 students in grades K6-K8 on standard states tests for reading from 2008 will be compared to scores from 2006.

Objective 3: By the end of the school year in 2008, Title 1 students in grades K6-K8 will improve their district assessment scores by fifteen percent (15%).

Evaluation 3: The scores of Title I students in grades K6-K8 on district assessments of reading from 2008 will be compared to scores from 2006.

Objective 4: The Title I students in grades K6-K8 will exhibit a more positive attitude towards reading and learning in general.

Evaluation 4: A survey will be administered to assess Title I student attitudes in grades K6-K8 towards reading and learning in Spring 2007 before the use of the mini classroom lab using software from Plato Learning and again in Spring 2008 after the lab has been in implementation. The results for both tests will be evaluated using a Likert-scale to facilitate quantitative comparisons of scores.

Objective 5: Title I reading students will have regular access to computers for improving their learning experience.

Evaluation 6: All Title I reading students will have access to the mini classroom lab during class hours at least once per week. The lab will be available during recess and for an hour before and after school for those who want additional time.

4) Project Strategies/Activities

The software requires three days of dedicated teacher training on the Plato Learning content library which will be provided by the vendor. The vendor, Plato Learning, has agreed to install the mini lab, but will need the help of the school’s network administrator to ensure online connectivity. Presently, there are several unused classrooms and one of these will house the new mini lab.

The mini classroom lab using software from Plato Learning will supplement Title I classroom teaching in reading. This proposal calls for access for maximum access by five students at a single time. Although average class size is 15 students, access for five students will be sufficient to meet the mini lab’s objectives. Students use the mini classroom on alternating days, providing recommended levels of access by other teachers using the software.

5) Timeline

Baseline survey before mini lab implementation will be administered to assess student attitudes towards reading and learning.

Plato Learning will install the mini lab with the help of the school’s network administrator.

The Title I reading instructor will attend a three-day training session at Plato Learning facilities.

The Title I reading instructor will become familiar with the Plato Learning content library.

The Title 1 reading instructor will begin supplementing classroom instruction with the mini classroom lab using software from Plato Learning.

Title I reading instructor will assess classroom performance and modify lab use accordingly.

The STAR Reading test results will be evaluated.

Survey results on student attitudes towards reading and learning will be compared to April 2007 results.

The state standard scores for reading will be evaluated.

The district assessment scores for reading wil be evaluated.

The overall success of the mini classroom lab will be assessed

Lessons learned and suggestions will be incorporated into the use of the mini classroom lab for classes beginning in September 2008.

6) Dissemination of Information

The Title 1 reading instructor will develop a detailed document containing the mini lab’s goals and objectives as well as all evaluation results. This document will be available internally to all staff and a copy will be sent to the district administration as well as the State Department of Education without copyright to allow for dissemination to other schools.

Vendor supplied brochures and case studies of the Plato Learning content library will help educate administrators about the purpose and potential of the software.

The parents of Title I reading students will be called to ask them to encourage their children to make full benefit of the mini lab.

8) Budget

The total budget required for the mini classroom lab using software from Plato Learning is $7,725.00 as shown by the following line item breakdowns:

Item Cost Quantity Total Cost

Per Student Plato Learning $595.00 5 students $2,975.00

Content library access fee

Daily Instructor Training $1,500.00 3 days $4,500.00


Per Station Installation Fee

50.00 5 stations

Total Costs: $7,725.00

This relatively small sum is expected to offer a huge return on investment.


Fletcher-Flinn, C.M., & Gravatt, B. (1995). The efficacy of computer assisted instruction (CAI): A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 219-241.

Kulik, J.A. (1994). Meta-analytic studies of findings on computer-based instruction. In E. Baker & H. O’Neil (Eds.), Technology Assessment in Education and Training. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Kulik, C.C., & Kulik, J.A. (1991). Effectiveness of computer-based instruction: An updated analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 7, 75-94.

Murphy, R., Penuel, W., Means, B., Korbak, C., Whaley, a. (2001). E-DESK: A Review of Recent Evidence on the Effectiveness of Discrete Educational Software. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

Ryan, a. (1991). Meta-analysis of achievement effects of microcomputer applications in elementary schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 27(2), 161-184.

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