During the 2009-2010 school year, children with disabilities in preschool and pre-kindergarten received instruction in TeachTown Basics with 14 teachers in eight schools in Killeen Independent School District (ISD). Killeen ISD is a racially and ethnically diverse school district serving approximately 41,000 students in a metropolitan area in central Texas. Over 65 languages are spoken in the district’s schools. This evaluation examines growth in receptive-expressive language, cognitive-academic, social-emotional and adaptive behavior skill areas for 64 students who received TeachTown Basics instruction and 26 students who did not use TeachTown Basics. Growth in basic skill areas was measured by the Brigance Inventory of Early Development.
Of the 90 student participants, all qualified for special education services, 24 percent were classified as African American, 24 percent as Latino, 6 percent as Asian/Pacific Islander, 45 percent White, and 1 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native. The district assigned TeachTown Basics to classrooms in the district’s Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) that had students with the greatest need based on teacher recommendation and Brigance IED scores. The students in PPCD classrooms without TeachTown Basics formed the comparison group. PPCD classrooms incorporate 1:1 Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) instructional sessions. In the TeachTown Basics classrooms, to accommodate the computer program into the regular school day, children’s regularly scheduled 1:1 direct ABA teaching time was replaced with TeachTown Basics computer time.
Students spent a range of 1 to 63 hours on the TeachTown Basics software with an average of 23 hours over 92 sessions during the seven-month study period. After seven months of instruction in preschool and preK, students who used TeachTown Basics showed statistically significant gains in 7 out of 10 skill areas measured while the comparison group showed significant gains in 3 out of the 10 areas, even though the comparison group had higher Brigance scores at baseline in nearly all skill areas.
Students using TeachTown Basics caught up to their higher functioning peers on the Brigance IED daily living skills subdomain and surpassed their peers on the expressive language-isolated skill subdomain.
There was a significant positive relationship between how many lessons a student mastered and growth on the Brigance IED. Children who mastered more lessons on TeachTown Basics tended to show larger overall gains on the Brigance. Students with non-ASD disabilities showed the same amount of growth in 9 out of 10 tested Brigance domains as students with an ASD diagnosis, supporting that TeachTown Basics benefits students with disabilities other than ASD.
Students with non-ASD disabilities included those with primary diagnoses of speech impairment, down syndrome, intellectual disability and other special needs. The results of a social validity survey revealed that nearly all the teacher participants were in favor of TeachTown Basics, would recommend it to a colleague and believed the program is likely to result in long-term improvement in their students.