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The Effectiveness of a Program to Accelerate Vocabulary Development in Kindergarten (K-PAVE)

The Effectiveness of a Program to Accelerate Vocabulary Development in Kindergarten (K-PAVE)On November 22, 2010, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance released a report on this randomized control trial conducted by REL-Southeast in the Mississippi Delta to test the impact of Kindergarten PAVEd for Success (K-PAVE) on students’ expressive vocabulary. K-PAVE is a kindergarten vocabulary instruction program designed to promote kindergarten students’ vocabulary development through frequent, interactive book reading, explicit vocabulary instruction, and teacher-child conversations built around enhanced use of vocabulary. The REL-Southeast K-PAVE study found the program had a significant positive impact for student’s vocabulary development and academic knowledge, as well as for the classroom instruction outcome of vocabulary and comprehension support. In addition:

  • Kindergarteners who received the K-PAVE intervention were one month further ahead in vocabulary development at the end of kindergarten compared with their peers who did not receive the intervention. However, there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups on measures of kindergarten listening comprehension. 
  • The kindergarten teachers trained in the program were significantly more likely than their peers who did not receive K-PAVE training to engage in activities intended to support students' vocabulary and comprehension development. However, the program did not produce a statistically significant impact on either instructional or emotional support in the classroom. Additionally, the program did not impact the amount of instructional time spent on literacy in areas other than vocabulary and comprehension. 
The study focused on K-PAVE for three reasons: (1) there were only a small number of kindergarten-age-appropriate vocabulary interventions to be considered; (2) unlike other interventions, a preschool version of K-PAVE already existed and had undergone an impact study that provided evidence of effects; (3) K-PAVE was the only intervention that had developed teacher training materials and a training protocol.

The Mississippi K-PAVE study was conducted in over 30 school districts in and around the Mississippi Delta region. The study sample included more than 60 schools, with two kindergarten classrooms randomly selected in each school. Schools were randomly assigned to treatment (over 30 schools and over 60 kindergarten classes) or to a business-as-usual control group (34 schools and 68 kindergarten classrooms). The sample included nearly 1,300 kindergarten students (approximately 20 per school). The study examined the impact of K-PAVE on children’s vocabulary and comprehension outcomes as measured on nationally normed, standardized assessments and on teachers’ vocabulary and broader literacy instructional practices. Children were assessed in fall of their kindergarten year (pretest), spring 2009 (kindergarten posttest), and spring 2010 (1st grade posttest). Teachers’ instructional practices were measured during observations conducted in both treatment and control classrooms in fall 2008 (pretest) and spring 2009 (posttest).

This study was the first independent test of the effectiveness of the K-PAVE vocabulary intervention, using a rigorous randomized design, and testing the intervention as it is implemented in multiple school districts.

K-PAVE developers:  

Claire E. Hamilton
University of Massachusetts
Prof. Paula J. Schwanenflugel
University of Georgia

Hamilton, C. E., & Schwanenflugel, P. J. (in press).  PAVEd for Success: Building vocabulary and language development in young learners. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

kindergarten classroom 

View video clips about some of the strategies in the vocabulary intervention implemented with Mississippi Delta kindergartners as part of the study.

Strategies for Building Vocabulary in the Primary Years is now featured in the SERVE Special Collection on Teacher's Domain.