Sound Partners (1-3)

Study: Vadasy, Sanders, & Peyton (2005)

Vadasy, P. F., Sanders, E.A., & Peyton, J.A. (2005). Relative effectiveness of reading practice or word-level instruction in supplemental tutoring: How text matters, Journal of Learning Disabilities, 38(4), 364-380.
Descriptive Information Usage Acquisition and Cost

Program Specifications and Requirements


Sound Partners 1-3 is a phonics-based tutoring program that provides individual explicit instruction in early reading skills to students who need it most. The program was specifically developed to reduce the number of students identified with reading disabilities by supplementing reading instruction for: first graders at the highest risk for reading failure, second and third graders below grade level in reading, and students just learning the English language. Sound Partners 1-3 is designed to enable paraeducators or tutors to provide effective instruction in the early reading skills most predictive of reading achievement. In addition, Sound Partners 1-3 has been used successfully by parents who home-school their children.

Targeted to students in grades 1-3, Sound Partners helps struggling readers who are below benchmark in phonemic awareness and phonics. Using initial sound, phoneme segmentation, nonsense word, and letter naming fluencies, tutors help students build fundamental reading skills. In 30-minute, one-on-one sessions, students improve reading skills, apply decoding techniques, and build fluency using the scaffolded Decodable Reader storybooks.

Sound Partners 1-3 is intended for use in first through third grades. It is designed for use with students with disabilities (including learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, behavioral disabilities, and students at risk for reading failure), English language learners, and any student at risk of academic failure. The academic area of focus is reading (including phonological awareness, phonics/word study, fluency, and spelling).

Based on an analysis of purchased items, Sound Partners 1-3 has been implemented in approximately 500 locations since it was published in 2005. States with the highest levels of implementation include: Arizona, Washington, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Colorado, Michigan, and California. Some of the larger implementations are in Omaha Public Schools (NE), Tempe School District #3 (AZ), Troy-R-III School District (MO), Roseville CSD (CA), and Pendergast School District (AZ).

Where to obtain:
Cambium Learning Sopris

4093 Specialty Place

Longmont, CO 80504

Phone: 800-547-6747



Initial cost for implementing program:

  • There are no specific student materials.
  • Each tutor will need a set of materials.
  • Initial per tutor cost: $80.95 (this includes supervisor/tutor training materials and all materials a tutor needs to implement with fidelity)
  • Schools may also choose to purchase an optional decodable readers set ($138.95/set)

Replacement cost for subsequent use: $0

For the most up-to-date pricing, please visit our webstore:

Sound Partners 1-3 is designed for use with individual students.

Sound Partners 1-3 takes 30 minutes per session with a recommended four to five sessions per week for 25-28 weeks.

The program includes a highly specified teacher’s manual. No special technology is required.

One to four hours of training is required for the instructor.

The Sound Partners 1-3 tutor materials are accompanied by an Implementation Manual. This manual is designed to support the site/implementation supervisor in understanding the program and to provide direction for training the tutors. It provides a comprehensive outline of the ½ day tutor training and all materials needed by the supervisor. There are no additional materials needed for this training—the Tutor Handbook serves as the training guide for the tutors.

Instructors must be paraprofessionals, teacher’s assistants, aides, or tutors. Paraeducators attended trainings provided by the researchers/authors of Sound Partners. Training materials were developed and refined during five federally funded research studies.

Ongoing teacher support is not required, but is available. Additionally, each on-site supervisor is provided with observation checklists and guidance for ongoing support in the Implementation Manual.


Participants: Convincing Evidence

Sample size: 57 students in first grade in twelve schools. (38 students in the treatment group [19 Sound Partners with Reading Practice + 19 Sound Partners with Word Study] and 19 students in the control group).

Risk Status: Students met the screening criteria of scoring at or below a standard score of 90 (25th percentile) on the Reading subtest of the Wide Range Achievement Test – Revised (WRAT-R).





p of chi square





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








RP = 4
WS = 2

RP = 21.1%
WS = 10.5%




  American Indian






  Asian/Pacific Islander







RP = 3
WS = 5

RP = 15.8%
WS = 26.3%





RP = 6
WS = 7

RP = 31.6%
WS = 36.8%





RP = 6
WS = 5

RP = 31.6%
WS = 26.3%




Socioeconomic status

  Subsidized lunch






  No subsidized lunch






Disability status

  Speech-language impairments






  Learning disabilities

RP = 1
WS = 2

RP = 5.3%
WS = 10.5%




  Behavior disorders






  Intellectual disabilities












  Not identified with a disability






ELL status

  English language learner

RP = 7
WS = 10

RP = 36.8%
WS = 52.6%




  Not English language learner








RP = 8
WS = 7

RP = 42.1%
WS = 36.8%





RP = 11
WS = 12

RP = 57.9%
WS = 63.2%




Training of Instructors: Nineteen paraprofessional tutors, hired and paid by their respective schools, were randomly assigned to treatments by research staff prior to training; however, four tutors’ treatment assignments were switched prior to training due to conflicts between the training schedule and the tutors’ schedules. There were nine tutors assigned to the Reading Practice treatment and 10 tutors assigned to the Word Study treatment. Within each treatment, more than half of the tutors (6 each) had at least 1 year of Sound Partners tutoring experience and had participated in previous research. Experienced tutors received approximately two hours of initial training in treatment instruction and new tutors received approximately four hours of initial training. After training, all tutors were provided with weekly on-site coaching and modeling throughout the year.

Design: Partially 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 bias1Yes; more students were dropped from the RP group than the WS group. Additionally, more students were dropped from both treatments vs. control due to attendance, inconsistency, and/or incorrect tutoring.

Did the unit of analysis match the unit for random assignment (for randomized studies) or the assignment strategy (for quasi-experiments)?: No; random assignment was at the tutor level and the analysis at the student level.

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:

Fidelity of Implementation: Partially Convincing Evidence

Describe when and how fidelity of treatment information was obtained: Treatment integrity was assessed through (a) student completion of lessons and (b) tutor fidelity to instructional components. On-site tutor observations were conducted weekly by two researchers using a 41-criterion checklist of critical tutor and student behaviors required for full implementation of the 11 lesson components. Activities were rated on a dichotomous scale and the highest percentage possible was 100%. Tutors were also rated on a 16-item checklist on their use of tutoring time and instructional delivery. For all criteria, researchers scored only items they could observe during the on-site visit.

Provide documentation (i.e., in terms of numbers) of fidelity of treatment implementation: Research staff conducted a total of 437 tutor observations over the course of the year, with a mean of 20 observations per tutor and a mean of 6 observations per student. For each treatment, researchers computed the mean percentage of criteria that the tutors met for lesson components, use of time and instructional delivery, and overall tutoring. The overall mean fidelity percentage for the Reading Practice (RP) treatment group was 95.3% (SD = 5.18%) and for the Word Study (WS) treatment group was 95.1% (SD = 7.23%). In a series of one-way ANOVAs, researchers found no difference between the treatment groups on any criteria (F (1, 19) = 0.006, p = 0.94). Interrater reliability was assessed by examining the results of paired tutor-student observations conducted within a 20-day time frame. The mean overall interrater reliability for 16 sampled tutor-student pairs was 0.98 (SD = 0.06) with an average of 6.0 days (SD = 5.09) between observations.

Measures Targeted: Convincing Evidence

Measures Broader: Convincing Evidence

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


Students select a picture that best illustrated the meaning of an orally presented label. Testing was discontinued after the student missed 8 out of 12 items in a set.

Test-retest reliability is 0.93 for 6- to 10-year olds.

Measures receptive vocabulary.

Rapid Letter Naming

Displayed the uppercase letters of the alphabet twice in random order (total of 52 letter displayed). Students were asked to name as many letters as they could in 1 min.

Reliability on a similar rapid letter naming measure is reported at 0.93, with predictive validity at 0.73 to 0.98.

Measures letter knowledge.

Rapid Letter Sounds

Students were asked to say the sounds for as many letters as they could in 1 min (only hard consonant and short vowel sounds were accepted as correct).


Measures letter knowledge.

CTOPP Nonword Repetition

Assess the student’s ability to repeat nonwords. Testing was continued until 3 consecutive items were missed or until all items were administered

Test-retest reliability for 5- to 7-year-olds is 0.68.

Measures phonological processing.

Modified Rosner Syllable Deletion

Consists of 10 items requiring the deletion of one syllable from a multisyllabic word, with half of the items requiring deletion of the initial syllable and half requiring deletion of the final syllable. The score is the number correct.

The test-retest stability coefficient reported by Berninger et al. (1987) is 0.81.

Measures phonological processing.

WRAT-R Reading

Measured letter-knowledge (naming 13 uppercase letters and identifying the first 2 letters in the student’s name) and word reading skills. Testing was discontinued after 10 consecutive missed items.

Internal consistency reliability is 0.95 for 7-year-olds.

Measures reading accuracy.

WRAT-R Word Attack

Required the reading of pseudowords that increased in difficulty until six consecutive items were missed or until all items were administered

Split-half reliability is 0.94 for first graders.

Measures reading accuracy.

WRAT-R Word Identification

Required the reading of increasingly difficult words. Testing was discontinued after six consecutive missed items.

Split-half reliability for first graders is 0.98.

Measures reading accuracy.

WRAT-R Spelling

Required students to copy marks, write their names, and spell dictated words. Testing was discontinued after 10 consecutive items were missed. Typically, the standard score is calculated from a raw score total that includes copied marks and name spelling as well as words correctly spelled.

Internal consistency reliability for 7-year-olds is 0.92.

Measures spelling.

TOWRE Phonemic Decoding

Required reading as many nonwords as possible in 45 seconds from a list that gradually increased in difficulty.

Test-retest reliability for 6- to 9-year-olds is 0.90

Measures reading efficiency.

TOWRE Sight Words

Required reading as many words as possible in 45 seconds from a list that gradually increased in difficulty.

Test-retest reliability for 6- to 9-year-olds is 0.96

Measures reading efficiency.

Oral reading

Students orally read from three grade-level passages. For each passage, the number of words read correctly and the percentage of words read correctly were recorded. The three scores were averaged for an overall passage reading fluency rate and accuracy score.


Measures students’ context reading skills.


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

WRMT-R/NU Passage Comprehension

Students were asked to restore a word that was missing from a series of sentences and short passages. Testing was discontinued after six incorrect responses.

Split-half reliability is 0.94 for first graders.

Measures reading comprehension.


Number of Outcome Measures: 1 Prereading, 7 Reading, 1 Writing

Mean ES - Targeted: 0.80*

Mean ES - Broader: 0.76*

Effect Size:

Targeted Measures

Construct Measure Effect Size
Prereading TOWRE Phonemic Decoding 0.56*
Reading WRAT-R Reading 1.00***
Reading WRMT-R/NU Word Attack 1.08***
Reading WRMT-R/NU Word ID 0.90**
Reading TOWRE Sight Word 0.60*
Reading Passage Reading Fluency Rate 0.36
Reading Passage Reading Fluency Accuracy 0.88**
Writing WRAT-R Spelling 1.01***

 Broader Measures

Construct Measure Effect Size
Reading WRAT-R Passage Comprehension 0.76**


*      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: Individual

Duration of Intervention: 30 minutes, 4 times a week, 28 weeks

Minimum Interventionist Requirements: Paraprofessional / Tutor, 2-4 hours of initial training with, weekly on-site coaching and, modeling for one year

Reviewed by WWC or E-ESSA: WWC & E-ESSA

What Works Clearinghouse Review

Beginning Readers Protocol

Effectiveness: Sound Partners was found to have positive effects on alphabetics, fluency, and comprehension and no discernible effects on general reading achievement on beginning readers.

Studies Reviewed: 7 studies meet standards out of 11 studies total

Full Report

Evidence for ESSA

English Learners

Program Outcomes: Two studies evaluated Sound Partners with English learners. One involved kindergartners and one first graders. Effect sizes were significantly positive compared to controls at both grade levels. The effect size across Woodcock and CTOPP measures was +0.60 for kindergartners, +0.15 for first graders. Follow-up studies found that these outcomes were still seen two years later, on Word Reading and Comprehension. The positive outcomes qualify Sound Partners for the ESSA “Strong” category, and for the “Solid Outcomes” rating (effect size of at least +0.20 over at least two studies).

Number of Studies: 2

Average Effect Size: 0.36

Full Report

Struggling Readers

Program Outcomes: Two studies, one at the kindergarten level and the other at the first grade level, qualified for the review. The average effect size was +0.58 on measures from the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test and CTOPP. These met the criteria for the ESSA “Strong” category, and for “Solid Outcomes” (two studies with effect sizes of at least +0.20). Follow-up studies of the kindergartners and first graders both found positive effects maintained two years later on word reading and comprehension.

Number of Studies: 4

Average Effect Size: 0.58

Full Report


Other Research: Potentially Eligible for NCII Review: 4 studies

Jenkins, J. R., Peyton, J. A., Sanders, E. A., & Vadasy, P. F. (2004). Effects of reading decodable texts in supplemental first-grade tutoring. Scientific Studies of Reading, 8(1), 53–86.

Mooney, P. J. (2003). An investigation of the effects of a comprehensive reading intervention on the beginning reading skills of first graders at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders (Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2003). Dissertation Abstracts International, 64(05A), 85–1599.

Vadasy, P. F., Jenkins, J. R., & Pool, K. (2000). Effects of tutoring in phonological and early reading skills on students at risk for reading disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33(6), 579–590.

Vadasy, P. F., Jenkins, J. R., Antil, L. R., Wayne, S. K., & O’Connor, R. E. (1997a). The effectiveness of one-to-one tutoring by community tutors for at-risk beginning readers. Learning Disability Quarterly, 20(1), 126–139.