The purpose of this cluster-randomized control field trial was to was to examine the extent to which kindergarten teachers could learn a promising instructional strategy, wherein kindergarten reading instruction was differentiated based upon students' ongoing assessments of language and literacy skills and documented child characteristic by instruction (CXI) interactions; and to test the efficacy of this differentiated reading instruction on the reading outcomes of students from culturally diverse backgrounds. The study involved 14 schools and included 23 treatment (n = 305 students) and 21 contrast teacher (n = 251 students). Teachers in the contrast condition received only a baseline professional development that included a researcher-delivered summer day-long workshop on individualized instruction. Data sources included parent surveys, individually administered child assessments of language, cognitive, and reading skills and videotapes of classroom instruction. Using Hierarchical Multivariate Linear Modeling (HMLM), we found students in treatment classrooms outperformed students in the contrast classrooms on a latent measure of reading skills, comprised of letter-word reading, decoding, alphabetic knowledge, and phonological awareness (ES = .52). Teachers in both conditions provided small group instruction, but teachers in the treatment condition provided significantly more individualized instruction. Our findings extend research on the efficacy of teachers using Individualized Student Instruction to individualize instruction based upon students' language and literacy skills in first through third grade. Findings are discussed regarding the value of professional development related to differentiating core reading instruction and the challenges of using Response to Intervention approaches to address students' needs in the areas of reading in general education contexts.
Keywords: Response to intervention; child by instruction interactions; kindergarten; reading instruction.