Has the presence of first-grade core reading program academic vocabulary changed across six decades?

Has the presence of first-grade core reading program academic vocabulary changed across six decades?

First Author: Jill Fitzgerald -- UNC-CH
Additional authors/chairs: 
Jeff Elmore; Jackie E. Relyea; Jack Stenner
Keywords: Academic Language, Textbook, Vocabulary
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose

Researchers have advocated that students, including the youngest children, should have plentiful textual exposure to academic vocabulary. No studies have examined possible shifts in the level of such exposure over time for any reading or disciplinary textbook programs. We asked, “Did later program years for a first-grade core reading program include more academic words than earlier years?”

Method

Design, data sources: Academic vocabulary (science, mathematics, social studies, general) across six decades (1962 to 2013) of the Scott Foresman first-grade core reading programs was computationally measured through machine learning based on prior human decisions.

Number of Academic Words (types) was the total in a year. Reliabilities for academic word identification ranged from .89 to .96.

Analyses: One set of mixed effects Poisson Regressions was conducted for each of the four categories.

Results

For each academic word category except mathematics, later years contained more academic words than earlier years (Incidence Rate Ratios = from 1.04 to 1.05, ps < .001). However, effects were very small, with each one-year increase of 4% or 5%. Compared to the total N of word types per program (1,695 in 1962 to 3,248 in 2007), the percentage of types that were academic was small, ranging from 0% in 1962 for all academic categories to no more than 8% (Science, 2007, N = 258) in any of the last three program years.

Conclusion

Later program years included slightly more academic words than earlier years. Considering the total number of word types in programs, the incidence was small.