During the 2012–13 school year, an evaluation examined reading and math skills during the implementation of TeachTown Basics and TeachTown Social Skills at a high poverty, largely Hispanic elementary school in Madison School District #38, an urban district located in Phoenix, Arizona. The evaluation assessed the achievement of students classified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who were enrolled in a self-contained autism program in first and second grades. Over three months, students used TeachTown Basics computer-based lessons in two 15-minute sessions a day and received small group instruction in the program’s staff-led generalization lessons and Social Skills lessons in four 30-45 minutes sessions a week. Growth in academic skills were measured by the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) for Primary Grades (Northwest Evaluation Association, 2009) in reading and mathematics—assessments that are aligned with state and national curricula and standards.
From spring 2012 to winter 2012, all students showed positive and educationally meaningful gains in reading and math as measured by the MAP during the use of TeachTown: Basics. Average growth for students using TeachTown: Basics was translated to a national percentile rank to express their growth compared to similar students across the nation. Gains shown by all TeachTown: Basics students exceeded growth estimates for similar students in the normative sample. Average growth for TeachTown students was at the 73rd percentile in reading and at the 66th percentile in math.
Prior to the use of TeachTown Basics and TeachTown Social Skills in the fall of 2012, all 6 students were enrolled in a self-contained autism program. After three months of using TeachTown, 4 of the 6 students attended one or more general education special area class, for 15 to 75 percent of the school day. By the end of the school year, all 6 students were taught in general education special area classes for 10 to 90 percent of the school day.
All students made clinically significant improvements in social skills and challenging behaviors during the use of TeachTown Basics and TeachTown Social Skills, based on teacher observation. Improvements included increased eye-gaze duration and joint attention behaviors, peer social greetings and praise, initiations and interactions with peers on the playground, and a reduction in the use of “time-outs” and other exclusionary discipline practices.
Student growth in MAP RIT scores was measured by the Conditional Growth Index (CGI), a normative growth metric that shows how student growth compares to the growth of students across the nation. It provides context for how much growth a student showed compared to his or her growth projection. CGI takes into account the subject being assessed, grade level, and student’s starting RIT score. CGI scores are expressed in standard deviation units and translate to national percentile ranks. A CGI score of 0 which corresponds to the 50th percentile means that a student showed the same amount of growth as his or her growth projection. Positive CGI scores (greater than 50th percentile) indicate that a student exceeded his or her growth projection. Conversely, negative CGI scores (less than the 50th percentile) indicate that a student’s growth was less than his or her growth projection.
Although the results have been obtained from self-contained classrooms with only three months of program use, first and second grade students with ASD showed educationally meaningful gains in reading and math as measured by a standardized achievement test that is aligned with national and state curricula and standards. The amount of growth exceeded the average gains made by students in the national population in the same grade and starting skill levels.