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Figure 1. Pre-Test Reading Scores
A second independent samples t-test was run to determine whether there were significant differences between the two groups on the post-test FCAT 2.0 reading scores. The results indicate that there was a significant difference between the two groups, such that the students in the intervention group had higher post-test scores than the students in the control group (t58 = -4.677, p < .001.). The group difference in post-test scores is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Post-Test Reading Scores
Two paired t-test analyses were also run. The first paired t-test analysis examined individual improvement between pre and post-tests for the entire sample. The results showed a significant increase in test scores, with a mean increase of 13 points and a standard deviation of 6.2, t59 = -16.14, p < .001.
A second paired t-test analysis, with the data split by group, indicated that both groups showed improvement in their test scores over the course of the study. However, the mean increase in test scores for the intervention group that received the tutoring was much higher than it was for the control group (18.4 point increase vs. 7.5 point increase).
Figure 3 demonstrates the association between pre- and post-test scores, showing them to be associated in a linear fashion.
Figure 3. Scatterplot of Pre and Post Test Scores for Full Sample
The results of the statistical analysis support the study's main hypothesis that participation in an afterschool-tutoring program contributes to an improvement in overall reading abilities, as measured by performance on the FCAT 2.0 Reading test. Both groups began the study with similar levels of reading abilities, but by the end of the study, the intervention group had improved significantly more than the control group. While both groups did show improvement in their reading abilities over the course of the study, the intervention group showed a greater improvement. Mean levels of reading test score improvement differed, on average, by 11 points, such that the intervention group, on average, performed 11 points higher on the post-test than did the students from the control group. This information notes that while practice effects and time in school can help to increase test scores (as demonstrated by the control group improvement), participation in an after-school tutoring program can help to increase improvement significantly (as demonstrated by the intervention group).
There are a number of reasons why the results of this study seem logical. Research has shown repeatedly that practice contributes to learning (Wasik & Slavin, 1993). Students in the intervention group were given specific amounts of time with which to practice their reading. Additionally, their practice time was structured by the tutoring they received, to ensure that they were practicing material that would help them to achieve higher scores on the FCAT 2.0 reading test. While the students in the control group may also have practiced, how they spent their after school time was up to them and they were not required to attend the FCAT tutoring program. As such, their practicing may have been less or may have been less effective, resulting in less of an improvement on their reading test scores. Finally, while all students may have practiced their reading skills, the FCAT 2.0 tutoring group received specific instruction that was based on the NGSSS benchmarks related to the test. As such, the instruction they received that was specifically geared towards the test itself may have helped the students to perform better on the test. Ultimately, any standardized test tests two things: the concept it is attempting to test, in this case, reading ability, and the student's familiarity and comfort with the test itself. By specifically practicing FCAT related exercises, students become more familiar with the test process and procedure, which can limit the extent to which the test itself interferes with the score the student receives. Similar results have been found with students who study specifically for standardized tests (such as the SAT) versus students who simply study the content of the test (i.e. reading or academic achievement).
Future research should attempt to determine more specifically what it is about the after school-tutoring program that helps to improve scores. For example, would a non-mandatory tutoring program be equally effective? Research may also want to know whether basing the content of tutoring on the benchmarks makes a significant difference compared to tutoring that simply helps students to improve their reading abilities.
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