Study: Huffstetter, King, Onwuegbuzie, Schneider, & Powell-Smith (2010)

Huffstetter, M., King, J. R., Onwuegbuzie, A. J., Schneider, J. J., & Powell-Smith, K. A. (2010). Effects of a computer-based early reading program on the early reading and oral language skills of at-risk preschool children. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 15, 279-298.
Descriptive Information Usage Acquisition and Cost Program Specifications and Requirements Training

Headsprout is a research-based, online supplemental reading program that teaches reading fundamentals to grades PreK-2, and reading comprehension strategies to grades 3-5. The interactive program uses patented technology that allows adaptive online instruction.

With the Headsprout Early Reading sequence, students learn to read. Early readers interact with online episodes and read printable eBooks designed to instill key foundational reading skills including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and beginning comprehension.

Once readers have demonstrated a solid grasp of the basics, they move on to the Headsprout Reading Comprehension sequence. These episodes were created to teach the four primary components of reading comprehension: finding facts, making inferences, identifying themes, and learning vocabulary in context.

Headsprout incorporates hundreds of instructional routines that automatically adapt to the specific needs and learning pace of each student.

The Headsprout Reading Comprehension component provides students with instructional strategies to increase their ability to comprehend what they read, to demonstrate their understanding across different subjects areas, and to apply those skills on standardized tests.

Headsprout is intended for use in grades PreK-5. The program is intended for use with any student at risk for academic failure, including students with learning disabilities, students with cognitive impairment, students with behavioral disabilities, English language learners, and any student at risk of academic failure. The academic areas of focus include phonological awareness, phonics/word study, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary.)

Where to obtain:
Learning A-Z
1840 East River Rd, #320 Tucson AZ 85718

Phone: 866-889-3729

Website: https://www.headsprout.com/

Cost: Headsprout's basic pricing plan includes one classroom license that is valid for one year. Cost per classroom is $199.95. Professional development is included with every license purchased. Levels of professional development provided will be based upon the amount of each individual

purchase as outlined below:

0 to $1,999: On Demand Videos accessed via the Headsprout website

$2,000 to $4,999: 2 customized webinars,

$5,000 to $9,999: 5 customized webinars,

$10,000 to $24,999: 1 day customized, onsite Professional Development, 10 customized webinars

$25,000 to $49,999: 3 days customized, onsite Professional Development, 15 customized webinars

$50,000+: 5 days customized, onsite Professional Development, 20 customized webinars 


It is recommended that Headsprout is used with individual students.

Headsprout takes an average of 20 minutes per session with a recommended 3 sessions per week for 25 weeks.

The program requires technology. Headpsrout is accessible with any desktop computer, laptop, or mobile device with internet connectivity. Headsprout is compatible with Chrome, Internet Explorer and Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or newer. Schools do not need to install programs locally. Learning A-Z system requirements are available on their website at http://help.learninga-z.com/customer/portal/articles/1649242-system-requirements. Additionally, users can perform a system check at https://www.learninga-z.com/help/browsercheck.htm.

A desktop, laptop, or mobile device with internet connectivity is required to access the Headsprout program. In addition, headsets are recommended.

Training is not required. Training for 1-4 hours is available in the forms of free public webinars, customized webinars, and on-site training and support.

The minimum qualifications of instructors are that they must be paraprofessionals. The program does not assume that the instructor has expertise in a given area.

The Headsprout instructional resources were tested using single-subject control analyses and between groups experimental designs. Over 250 learners participated in user testing, and only once all learners responded correctly in at least 90% of opportunities an instructional segment was deemed ready for use. Over

10,000 changes to the program were made as a result of user testing feedback prior to the program being made available for purchase.


Participants: Unconvincing Evidence

Sample size: 62 (31 program, 31 control)

Risk Status: All children qualified for free or reduced-price lunch and came from families meeting the poverty index guidelines for the state of Florida, based on the most recent data available at that time (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2004). English was the second language of 32 of the children.


Grade level


PROGRAM Percentage


CONTROL Percentage

p of chi square

Pre-Kindergarten 31 50% 31 50%  







  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: 

Teacher and Teacher Assistant Demographic Data



Teacher Assistants













     African American






Classroom experience



     0-2 years



     3-5 years



     6 or more years



Highest degree received



     General education diploma



     High school diploma



     Associate degree



     Bachelor’s degree




Design: Partially Convincing Evidence

Did the study use random assignment?: Yes

If not, was it a tenable quasi-experiment?: NA

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?: No

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?: NA

Were the program and control groups demographically comparable at pretreatment?: No

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: Unconvincing Evidence

Describe when and how fidelity of treatment information was obtained: Teachers’ implementation was assessed using one procedural checklist for each the experimental and control programs. The checklists were developed by the first author after identifying necessary tasks for successful implementation of the programs, which was done through observation of the programs and discussion with teachers. During each observation period, the first author observed teachers while they implemented the control or experimental intervention. Each item from the applicable implementation integrity checklist was marked as being present (if the teacher implemented the item) or absent (if the teacher failed to implement the item). A teacher with experience in using both the experimental and the control interventions served as a second observer during ten randomly selected observation sessions.

Provide documentation (i.e., in terms of numbers) of fidelity of treatment implementation: Implementation integrity for each observed session was calculated by applying the following formula to the implementation integrity checklists: (p=[p þ a] Â 100), where p represents the number of items present and a represents the number of items absent. Implementation integrity percentages for Headsprout Early Reading ranged from 60% to 90%, with a mean of 77%. Implementation integrity percentages for Millie’s Math House ranged from 60% to 100%, with a mean of 78%.

Measures Targeted: Convincing Evidence

Measures Broader: Convincing Evidence

Targeted  Measure

Reliability Statistics

Relevance to Program Instructional Content

Exposure to Related Content Among Control Group

Kappa coefficient

0.62 to 0.74



Kappa coefficient 0.62 to 0.74   X

Broader  Measure

Reliability Statistics

Relevance to Program Instructional Content

Exposure to Related Content Among Control Group




Number of Outcome Measures: 2 Reading

Mean ES - Targeted: Data Unavailable

Mean ES - Broader: 0.77*u

Effect Size:

Targeted Measures

Construct Measure Effect Size
Reading Test of Early Reading Ability - 3

Broader Measures

Construct Measure Effect Size
Reading Test of Language Development - Primary 3 0.77**,u


*        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: 20 minutes, 3 times a week, 25 weeks

Minimum Interventionist Requirements: Paraprofessional, No training required

Reviewed by WWC or E-ESSA: WWC

What Works Clearinghouse Review

Early Childhood Education Protocol

Effectiveness: Headsprout® Early Reading was found to have potentially positive effects on oral language and print knowledge.

Studies Reviewed: 1 study meets standards out of 2 studies total

Full Report


Evidence for ESSA

This program was not reviewed by Evidence for ESSA.

Other Research: Potentially Eligible for NCII Review: 3 studies

Grindle, C. F., Hughes, C. J., Saville, M., Huxley, K., & Hastings, R. P. (2013). Teaching early reading skills to children with autism using MimioSprout Early Reading. Behavioral Interventions, 28, 203-224.

Layng, T. V. J., Twyman, J. S., & Stikeleather, G. (2004). Engineering discovery learning: The contingency adduction of some precursors of textual responding in a beginning reading program. Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 20, 99–109.

Twyman, J. S., Layng, T. V. J., & Layng, Z. (2011). The likelihood of instructionally beneficial, trivial, or negative results for kindergarten and first grade learners who complete at least half of Headsprout Early Reading. Behavioral Technology Today, 6, 1-19.