A case study of the development and implementation of a balanced literacy intervention program
McKenna, John E.
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In January 1999, The Tonawanda City School District administered the fourth grade New York State English Language Arts assessment for the first time. The results indicated that 55% of the total population of students who took the exam scored below the State proficiency level. Even more concerning was the fact that 0% of the at-risk students in need of academic intervention were proficient on the exam. Due to this performance the New York State Education Department issued the Tonawanda City School District a warning and made it clear that a plan for improvement was necessary to raise student achievement. The author of this study was a principal in the Tonawanda City School District and made it a priority to develop a plan to improve instruction in the area of English Language Arts. The program was introduced as an intervention program at the first grade level and spread across all grade levels at Mullen School. The program eventually became the adopted English Language Arts program for all four elementary schools in the district. This case study focused on three questions: In what ways has the Tonawanda City School District's Balanced Reading and Writing Program affected the learning of program students?, In what ways did the Tonawanda City School District's Balanced Reading and Writing Intervention program influence literacy instruction in the school?, and In what ways has the leadership of the building principal and other key individuals affected or impacted the development and implementation of the Tonawanda City School District's Balanced Reading and Writing Intervention Program? Data were collected over a five year period and included student test scores, interviews with targeted staff and key personnel familiar with the development and implementation of the program, as well as a forum with a parent focus group. The study revealed that the program had a positive affect on the student achievement of the identified students in the study. Analysis of the State testing data revealed that the majority of the identified students who received instruction in the program reached the proficiency level on the NYS Grade 4 ELA exam. This was a vast improvement from the 0% of intervention students who scored proficiency on the original exam. Furthermore, the interviews revealed that the program fostered motivation, enjoyment and self-esteem in the students who participated. Parents reported more positive feelings toward school and appreciated the support, effort and time the teachers devoted to their children. The staff clearly indicated that the support, optimism and direct involvement of the principal had a positive affect and contributed to the successful development and implementation of the program. In conclusion, it appears that the Balanced Reading and Writing Intervention Program was successful at helping at-risk students catch up to their peers in reading achievement. It is also apparent that specific leadership qualities, methods and strategies had an impact on the successful development and implementation of the program. However, the way in which these aspects might be introduced and supported in any school will determine how successful any program will be developed and implemented.