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Preschool Writing Project: July 2017 – June 2021

An Examination of Response to Intervention in the Early Writing Skills of At-Risk Preschoolers

U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences






Who participated?

Children who attended Head Start centers in two local counties participated in the project. They enrolled two years prior to entering kindergarten and participated for up to 3 years.

What are we investigating?

The primary purpose of this project was to establish a stronger scientific foundation for educational practice within early literacy by utilizing recent advances in cognitive science and neuroscience to examine:

(1) the impact of an established evidence-based intervention (Phonological Awareness+Letter Knowledge: PA+LK) on the developmental trajectories of writing skills in preschool children at-risk for early learning difficulties;

(2) whether improvements in selected cognitive abilities (i.e., fine-motor, language-based functions), but not others (i.e., executive functions) mediate the effects of treatment on writing outcomes; and,

(3) whether treatment is moderated by child (cognitive ability) or contextual (home and classroom literacy environment) factors.

Want to learn more?

Meet the Team , check out our Publications, or Contact Us for more information.


Preschool child looking up at the alphabet.We provided instruction using the evidence-based lesson plans from the PA+LK approach, beginning at age 3, with preschoolers who were deemed typically developing or at-risk for challenges with literacy. The children at risk were randomly assigned to either a no-treatment group or a treatment group. The treatment group participated in evidence-based lessons targeted to improve emergent early literacy skills, for two consecutive years. The sessions focused on phonological awareness, developing letter knowledge, and print skills. The non-treatment groups participated in book-based reading and activities.


Frequently Asked Questions

It was a 4-year study; each child participated for up to 3 years at ages 3, 4 and 5.
We completed a 90-minute assessment each fall, followed by instruction 3 times per week for 14 weeks in the spring for the first two years.
For confidentiality, the final results from the study will be reported about the group as a whole and will not include information about individual participants. Results can be found on the website and will be presented at the annual parent meetings. Parents can request information about their child by contacting the project director.