CCE Theses and Dissertations


Computer-based Reading Program with At-risk Pre-kindergarten Students

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Information Systems (DCIS)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Getrude W. Abramson

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Committee Member

Martha M. Snyder


The goal of the dissertation was to investigate the usage-effect for the computer-based reading program, Breakthrough to Literacy (BTL), in literacy achievement with at-risk Pre-K students, and summer learning loss. Designed to supplement classroom literacy activities through daily time using the computerized program, BTL emphasized four reading instruction components: alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness, vocabulary, and word recognition.

Using a prospective causal-comparative research design, the year and half long study included a large, 1,288 student sample population of experimental and control groups identified from intact, at-risk Pre-K classes in an urban school district in eastern Virginia. Classroom visitations and BTL student usage data validated fidelity of implementation in experimental classes. Pretest and posttest literacy achievement data were collected through school year 2004-05 using the Internet-based PALS-Pre K test system.

Experimental group mean score was slightly higher than the control group, although not significant. ANCOV A, with pretests as covariate, showed higher control group gain score, with significance, but small effect size (partially=.006). Notably, experimental teachers rated the BTL program as excellent in developmental, presentation, social, and instructional components. Teachers judged it as an appropriate instructional application for literacy development with at-risk Pre-K students. The control teacher advocated expansion of the Pre-K BTL program to increase kindergarten readiness.

Prior research found summer learning loss in literacy achievement for disadvantaged students. Kindergarten literacy achievement data were obtained in 2005-06 from the PALS-K test system. Based on prior Pre-K and kindergarten scores, 43.1 % of the at-risk experimental and control Pre-K students had experienced summer learning loss. Both groups showed positive mean kindergarten gain scores with the experimental (M=5.16) two times higher than the control group (M=2.48), although not significant. Results suggested BTL usage influenced retaining Pre-K literacy achievement beyond summer.

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