Texas A&M Profs to Evaluate Hispanic Pre-school Language Program
Under $2.6 Million Federal Grant
COLLEGE STATION – Effectiveness of a language-building intervention program for preschool children will be evaluated by two Texas A&M University educational psychology professors in four heavily Hispanic South Texas school districts under a $2.6 million U.S. Department of Education grant.
The language-building program, Project WORLD (Words for Oral Reading and Language Development), is intended to accelerate vocabulary and background knowledge with science- and social studies-related content in preschool-age children for later reading with comprehension.
Jorge E. Gonzalez and Sharolyn Pollard-Durodola, assistant professors in Texas A&M’s Department of Educational Psychology, will evaluate the effectiveness of WORLD under a five-year grant that includes a sub-ward to the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) in Edinburg. The two universities, in partnership with four school districts and a Head Start Consortium in South Texas, will test WORLD and its net positive impact in schools with high concentrations of students with low socio-economic status and ethnically and linguistically diverse backgrounds, primarily Hispanic.
Project WORLD was developed and piloted by Gonzalez, Pollard-Durodola and Deborah C. Simmons, professor of special education at Texas A&M, through a U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Development grant.
“Project WORLD is premised on research which shows that children with limited knowledge of vocabulary make the greatest gains in vocabulary and comprehension when adults use cognitively-demanding reading styles in conjunction with explicit and implicit opportunities to build on that learning,” says Gonzalez.
During the preschool years, children develop language skills that largely influence their long-term ability to read with comprehension, he notes. From age three, trends in children’s familiarity with words, amount of talk, and vocabulary levels are well established and indicative of widening gaps to come, he adds, pointing out that children who lag behind in reading development read less than other children, miss opportunities to develop reading comprehension strategies, often encounter reading material too advanced for their skills, and develop negative attitudes towards reading.
“Project WORLD offers carefully selected and sequenced read-alouds that build from basic word and world knowledge to detailed discussions,” Gonzalez says, “while systematically adding and cumulatively reviewing newly learned vocabulary for children who enter schooling with large differences in vocabulary size — differences that are correlated with socio-economic disadvantages, linguistic and ethnic diversity, and even variances in exposure to vocabulary-rich language at home or in other settings.”
Gonzalez and colleagues in Texas A&M’s College of Education and Human Development have worked extensively with at-risk preschoolers, early childhood poverty, and English language learners. His research interests also include home literacy environments, migrants and immigrants, oral language development, and vocabulary acquisition. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before joining the faculty at Texas A&M in 2004.
The $2.6 grant for the WORLD efficacy study was awarded through the National Center for Education Research (NCER), one of four centers within IES, the U.S. Department of Education’s research arm. NCER supports rigorous research that contributes to the solution of significant education problems in the U.S., officials note. IES strives to provide rigorous and relevant evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and shares this information broadly, they add.
About the Department of Educational Psychology: EPSY is one of four departments in the College of Education & Human Development at Texas A&M University and is currently home to about 2,200 undergraduate majors and minors, 175 graduate students, 90 faculty members, 30 staff members, and 85 graduate assistants. EPSY faculty are engaged in exciting, cutting-edge research in school, home and community settings that examines educational achievement, social support, and mental health issues across the human life span.
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