Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs



Laurie Elish-Piper
Laurie Elish-Piper

Susan L'Allier
Susan L'Allier

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

May 18, 2006

Literacy Education professors win grant to study
literacy coaching's impact on student achievement

DeKalb — Susan L'Allier and Laurie Elish-Piper, faculty members in the Northern Illinois University Department of Literacy Education, are the recipients of a 2006 Elva Knight Research Grant from the International Reading Association.

The prestigious honor – no more than four are awarded each year – was funded for $9,980. The maximum funding possible was $10,000.

“We're very excited because we really believe in this project,” said Elish-Piper, director of the NIU Reading Clinic. “It's critical information for us to have access to in the field.”

“Because the current responsibilities of learning coaches are so widely varied and encompass such a myriad of activities,” L'Allier added, “our hope is that this study will narrow down or help us pinpoint the critical tasks literacy coaches can use to promote student achievement.”

L'Allier and Elish-Piper will spend the 2006-07 academic year collecting data from 10 literacy coaches who work with an estimated 150 teachers and 3,750 students.

Selected literacy coaches, all of whom will have at least two years of experience, are highly qualified educators who help teachers improve their reading instruction.

The full-time coaches collaborate with teachers before and after school, during free periods and other professional development events; their guidance also comes through modeling techniques in the classroom, working with small groups of children and even co-teaching lessons.

NIU's researchers will examine coaching tasks using instruments they have developed and field-tested, as well collecting pre- and post-test scores of students.

They will use hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to analyze multiple factors to see which aspects of the coaching are most helpful on which aspects of student achievement. Another part of the research will determine if there is a “threshold” of coaching necessary to affect achievement.

Classroom teachers are expected to offer their perceptions of the effectiveness of the coaches who work with them.

“The literacy coaches are very interested in prioritizing the kinds of coaching activities they use. They're interested in how they can best spend their time,” Elish-Piper said. “They have hunches that their coaching is helping, but they don't know what aspects of the coaching are most related to gains in student achievement in reading. Everything in schools is data-driven now, and we need data to say how well it's working.”

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