Leveled Literacy Intervention System

Study: Ransford-Kaldon, Flynt, Ross, Franceschini, Zoblotsky, et al. (2010)

Ransford-Kaldon, C. R., Flynt, E. S., Ross, C. L., Franceschini, L. A., Zoblotsky, T. A., Huang, Y., & Gallagher, B. (2010). Implementation of Effective Intervention: An Empirical Study to Evaluate the Efficacy of Fountas & Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention Program (LLI) for 2009-2010. Memphis, TN: The University of Memphis, Center for Research in Educational Policy.
Descriptive Information Usage Acquisition and Cost


Program Specifications and Requirements


The Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention System (LLI) is a small-group, supplementary intervention designed for children who perform below grade-level expectations in reading and writing. LLI serves those students who need intensive support to achieve grade-level competency through explicit instruction in reading, writing, and word work combined with opportunities for increased language modeling and oral language development. Specific strategies for English language learners are included in the instructional plan.
Each LLI system includes a collection of leveled books based on ten text characteristics to provide enough support and challenge for the  reader so that he/she can be successful and make steps toward grade-level goals.

Assessment is an ongoing process in LLI and is tied to the Continuum of Literacy Learning, the instructional framework for the systems.  Teachers are provided with goals and objectives for each lesson, observational suggestions, and resources to conduct a reading record weekly with each child.  Progress is managed and monitored through the Classroom Management System, a computer-based resource that collects student data and reports results while aiding teachers in making instructional decisions. 

LLI is primarily intended for use in kindergarten through second grade, although it may also be used for third and fourth-grade students. It is designed for use with students with disabilities, English language learners, and any student at risk of academic failure. The academic area of focus is reading (including phonological awareness, phonics/word study, comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, spelling, and oral language development) and writing (including spelling, sentence construction, and writing in response to reading to increase comprehension).

Where to Obtain:
PO Box 6926
Portsmouth, NH 03802-6926
Phone #:  800-225-5800
Web Site: www.fountasandpinnell.com
Cost: The average cost per student is $84.79, based on 4 groups of 3 students for two different 18 week sessions. The replacement cost per student for subsequent use is $29.24 (take home bags, little books, and writing books).

Each grade level system is priced as a package and is inclusive of all materials necessary for instructional intervention of 3 students per group. The list price for 2010 is $1,787.50 for Kindergarten (Orange); $2,750 for First Grade (Green); and $3,093.75 for Second Grade (Blue). Special pricing is available for online purchases. All resources are available for sale separately to accommodate replacement, etc.

LLI is designed for use with groups of 3 students. Sessions are delivered in 30-minute increments, for a recommended 4-5 sessions per week for 14-18 weeks.

The program includes a highly specified teacher’s manual.

The Lesson Resource CD provides specific resources that are to be printed out for LLI lessons as needed. This resource accompanies the program. Other technology included with the program is not required, but highly recommended for use (Data Management CD and Professional Development DVD & Tutorials).

Training is not required for administration of LLI but highly recommended. Professional Development is embedded throughout the system through clear, explicit instructional lessons, classroom videos that model best practices, the Prompting Guide that offers clear and precise language to support student interactions, and professional books that build teacher expertise.  In addition, fee-based professional development is offered through Heinemann as well as Lesley and Ohio State Universities’ Literacy Collaborative, and are typically 2-3 days in length. Ongoing training may be customized.

In addition, training manuals and materials are available, and practitioners may obtain professional/technical support through Heinemann Professional Development, the Literacy Collaborative at Ohio State, and Lesley Universities, and by interactions with the Heinemann/Fountas and Pinnell website.

The program is intended to be delivered by professionals; however, it does not assume that the instructor has expertise in a given area.


Participants: Unconvincing Evidence

Sample size: 427 students (222 in the treatment group and 205 in the control group).

Risk Status: At the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, each district provided the researchers with a list of first and second grade students that they had identified as eligible for LLI using their own selection criteria, and whose parents had provided consent to participate in the study. Pre-testing of these students with the LLI Benchmarks and DIBELS began during the first three weeks of school. Kindergarten children were selected in the late winter of 2010 in the same manner as noted above.


  Program Control p of chi square
Number Percentage Number Percentage

Grade level







  Grade 1






  Grade 2






  Grade 3






  Grade 4






  Grade 5






  Grade 6






  Grade 7






  Grade 8






  Grade 9






  Grade 10






  Grade 11






  Grade 12






Mean Age









  American Indian






  Asian/Pacific Islander
























Socioeconomic status

  Subsidized lunch






  No subsidized lunch






Disability status

  Speech-language impairments






  Learning disabilities






  Behavior disorders






  Intellectual disabilities












  Not identified with a disability






ELL status

  English language learner






  Not English language learner



















Training of Instructors: A total of 28 LLI teachers and 125 classroom teachers across two districts participated in this study. According to data obtained from a survey of all participating LLI teachers, the majority of LLI teachers in the study had been teaching in their current school (84.1%) or any school (93.2%) for 6 or more years. Most LLI teachers had also completed a Master’s degree or beyond (65.9%). LLI teachers were all female, 97.7% White, and almost all held their professional teaching certification (95.5%). Additionally, almost all of the LLI teachers in the study (93.2%) had completed the LLI professional development provided to them. CREP researchers provided on-site orientation to the project and trained school coordinators and on-site researchers in each district to assist with data collection. Heinemann consultants provided 8 days of professional development with LLI materials, data management system, and instructional strategies.

Design: Convincing Evidence

Did the study use random assignment?: Yes.

If not, was it a tenable quasi-experiment?: Not applicable.

If the study used random assignment, at pretreatment, were the program and control groups not statistically significantly different and had a mean standardized difference that fell within 0.25 SD on measures used as covariates or on pretest measures also used as outcomes?: Yes.

If not, at pretreatment, were the program and control groups not statistically significantly different and had a mean standardized difference that fell within 0.25 SD on measures central to the study (i.e., pretest measures also used as outcomes), and outcomes were analyzed to adjust for pretreatment differences? Not applicable.

Were the program and control groups demographically comparable at pretreatment?: Yes.

Was there attrition bias1? No.

Did the unit of analysis match the unit for random assignment (for randomized studies) or the assignment strategy (for quasi-experiments)?: Yes.

1 NCII follows guidance from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) in determining attrition bias. The WWC model for determining bias based on a combination of differential and overall attrition rates can be found on pages 13-14 of this document: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pdf/reference_resources/wwc_procedures_v2_1_standards_handbook.pdf


Fidelity of Implementation: Partially Convincing Evidence

Describe when and how fidelity of treatment information was obtained: The LLIOT, developed by CREP researchers for the purposes of the study, involves a targeted, 30 minute observation of a randomly selected LLI lesson. The LLIOT is used to rate LLI teachers’ fidelity to the LLI program model as well as the quality of their literacy instructional strategies and learning environment of the lesson. Ratings are provided using a 4-point scale that ranges from 0 (Not Observed) to 3 (Excellent). Containing 20 items, the LLIOT is comprised of 3 subscales: Quality of LLI Implementation, which is designed to measure LLI teachers’ implementation of the 10 main LLI lesson components; Literacy Instructional Strategies, which is designed to assess LLI teachers’ use of general teaching strategies that should be present in a successful literacy intervention; and Learning Environment, which is designed to assess the quality of lesson factors such as organization, pacing, and the availability of materials. On-site researchers trained by CREP conducted observations of two intervention sessions with each participating LLI group, one near the beginning of the study period and one near the end, using the LLIOT. This observation data contributed to the evaluation of fidelity to the LLI model. To ensure the reliability of data, observers received a manual which provided definitions of terms, examples and explanations of target strategies, and a description of procedures for completing the instruments. Observers also received instruction on the instrument in a group session and participated in practice exercises. In addition, the LLI Data Management System and select focus groups supplied information on fidelity.

Provide documentation (i.e., in terms of numbers) of fidelity of treatment implementation:  The Leveled Literacy Intervention Observation Tool (LLIOT) involved a targeted, 30-minute observation of LLI program implementation and instructional strategies (n = 160 observations). See Table 30 in the 2010 publication by Ransford- Kaldon et. al to view the frequencies for each item on the LLIOT, as observed during the visits. The results from the LLIOT revealed that 7 of the 10 LLI lesson components were rated “Acceptable” or “Excellent” over 90% of the time, indicating a high level of program implementation fidelity across both districts. The highest rated lesson components (i.e., those demonstrating the highest degree of implementation fidelity) included writing about reading, phonics/word work, and reading a new book, which were rated “Acceptable” or “Excellent” 98.8%, 97.6%, and 95.7% of the time, respectively. The lowest rated lesson components (i.e., those demonstrating the lowest degree of implementation fidelity) included classroom and home connections, which were not observed 51.9% and 22.5% of the time, respectively. Teachers were also rated highly on their use of literacy instructional strategies, such as modeling and encouraging fluent oral reading (96.9% “Acceptable” or “Excellent”) and appropriate reading strategies (95.7%) and assisting students in problem-solving (95.6%). Further, in the majority of observed lessons, instructional materials were readily available; the lesson was well-organized; and students were engaged and attentive (100.0%, 99.4%, and 98.1% “Acceptable” or “Excellent,” respectively). Overall, observers perceived that the lesson was delivered as designed 96.3% of the time.

Measures Targeted: Convincing Evidence

Measures Broader: Convincing Evidence

Targeted Measure Score type and range of measure Reliability statistics Relevance to program instructional content

Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (LLI Benchmarks)

Places students on an A-Z gradient of text difficulty relative to grade level goals (A-C for kindergarten, B-I for 1st grade, H-M for 2nd grade). Alphabetic levels were converted to numeric equivalents prior to analysis, and an additional level (“Pre-A”) was created for those students in the study who could not reach the initial benchmark level A.

Test-retest reliability:
Book series A-N (grades K-2) = 0.93
Book series L-Z (grades 3-8) = 0.94 All books (A-Z) = 0.97

The LLI Benchmarks were used to measure phonemic awareness, letter-sound relationships (decoding), vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and writing in a manner that is in alignment with the LLI curriculum. The benchmarks were used in the study to provide a baseline instructional reading level and to place students in LLI groups at the appropriate level.


Broader Measure Score type and range of measure Reliability statistics Relevance to program instructional content

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS): Initial Sound Fluency subtest – administered to K students

Number of correct initial sounds per minute (16 possible correct, 1-3 minutes to administer)

Minimal revision of the Onset Recognition Fluency measure, which has an alternate-form reliability of 0.72 in January of kindergarten

All DIBELS subtests measure concepts covered in LLI, including phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, accuracy and fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. DIBELS was chosen


Number of Outcome Measures: 4 Prereading, 8 Reading

Mean ES - Targeted: 0.65*u

Mean ES - Broader: Data Unavailable*u

Effect Size:

Targeted Measures

Construct Measure Effect Size
Reading Fountas & Pinell Benchmark Assessment System (LLI Benchmarks) Kindergarten 0.76***,u
Reading Fountas & Pinell Benchmark Assessment System (LLI Benchmarks) 1st Grade 0.81***,u
Reading Fountas & Pinell Benchmark Assessment System (LLI Benchmarks) 2nd Grade 0.39*,u

Broader Measures

Construct Measure Effect Size
Prereading DIBELS ISF (Kindergarten) 0.18u
Prereading DIBELS LNF (Kindergarten) 0.22u
Prereading DIBELS PSF (Kindergarten) 0.14u
Prereading DIBELS LNF (1st Grade) 0.28u
Reading DIBELS NWF (Kindergarten) 0.50**,u
Reading DIBELS NWF (1st Grade) 0.49**,u
Reading DIBELS ORF (1st Grade) 0.30u
Reading DIBELS NWF (2nd Grade)
Reading DIBELS ORF (2nd Grade) 0.00u


*      p ≤ 0.05
**    p ≤ 0.01
***  p ≤ 0.001
–      Developer was unable to provide necessary data for NCII to calculate effect sizes
u      Effect size is based on unadjusted means
†      Effect size based on unadjusted means not reported due to lack of pretest group equivalency, and effect size based on adjusted means is not available


Visual Analysis (Single Subject Design): N/A

Disaggregated Data for Demographic Subgroups: No

Disaggregated Data for <20th Percentile: No

Administration Group Size: Small Group, (n=3)

Duration of Intervention: 30 minutes, 5 times per week, 14-18 weeks

Minimum Interventionist Requirements: Professional , Training is not required; , 8 days of PD recommended

Reviewed by WWC or E-ESSA: No

What Works Clearinghouse Review

This program was not reviewed by What Works Clearinghouse.


Evidence for ESSA

This program was not reviewed by Evidence for ESSA.

Other Research: Potentially Eligible for NCII Review: 0 studies