Study: Tyler, Hughes, Beverley, & Hastings (2015)

Tyler, E., Hughes, J., Beverley, M., Hastings, R. (2015). Improving Early Reading Skills for Beginning Readers Using an Online Programme as Supplementary Instruction. Eur. J. Psychology Education, DOI 10.1007/s10212-014-0240-7, p. 212-226
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: Pupils in Year 2 (aged 6–7 years) from two mainstream primary schools in North Wales participated in the study. In the first part of the school year, 51 children were randomly allocated to either the Headsprout Early Reading (HER) group or a waiting list control group (C). Twenty-five were allocated to the HER group (Female = 12, Male = 13) and 26 to the control group (Female = 5, Male = 21). In the pre-test reading assessments, a number of participants demonstrated reading ages beyond a beginning reading level for which the HER program is designed and were therefore excluded from the study. Thus, at the beginning of the intervention period, there were 24 children in the HER group (Female = 11, Male = 13) and 17 children in the control group (Female = 3, Male = 14). Eight participants were learning English as an additional language (HER = 5, C=3).

Risk Status: The study excluded children already reading beyond the at-risk level of skills taught by HER based on pre-test reading assessments.





Cox Index





Grade level

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  American Indian






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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:   


Design: Unconvincing Evidence

Did the study use random assignment?: No

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

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?: N/A

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?: No

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

Was there attrition bias1? Yes

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: In each school, one training session was conducted so that a teaching assistant and the undergraduate students could implement the program. Researchers were present for the initial session, after which we monitored online episode data to ensure fidelity of implementation. An implementation checklist to guide the running of the sessions was adapted from Huffstetter et al. (2010) for use during the training session and thereafter in all sessions conducted in both schools. This included items such as:  ‘Have you checked every child is responding audibly to the speak-out-loud activities?’, ‘Have you responded to any requests for help by redirecting the child back to the program?’, ‘Have you read the HER stories and scored performance on the appropriate sheets?’ and ‘Have you checked each child has achieved 90 % accuracy immediately after episode completion?’

Provide documentation (i.e., in terms of numbers) of fidelity of treatment implementation: Seven children in the HER group were excluded from the analysis because they did not complete the full 80-episode program within the school year. Progress through the episodes and reasons for these children not completing the program varied. Four children reached the second half of the program (ranging from episodes 41–71). Three of these children did not complete due to many school absences (either long periods of absence or absence during the HER sessions). Two children completed a significant proportion of the program (39 and 47 episodes) but required additional input in later episodes which slowed progress. This additional input was in the form of the Targeted Practice tier of support and was to be delivered during the usual HER sessions for those children. As such, they did not have as many opportunities to complete the online episodes.

Measures Targeted: Unconvincing Evidence

Measures Broader: Data Unavailable

Targeted  Measure

Reliability Statistics

Relevance to Program Instructional Content

Exposure to Related Content Among Control Group

DRA assessment

Interobserver Agreement 93.72% to 94.60%




Cronbach’s Alpha 0.62 to 0.74




Broader  Measure

Reliability Statistics

Relevance to Program Instructional Content

Exposure to Related Content Among Control Group






Number of Outcome Measures: 1 Reading

Mean ES - Targeted: Data Unavailable

Mean ES - Broader: Data Unavailable

Effect Size:

Targeted Measures



Effect Size


Test of Early Reading Ability-3






Broader Measures



Effect Size






*        p ≤ .05

**      p ≤ .01

***    p ≤ .001

–      Developer was unable to provide necessary data for NCII to calculate effect sizes

†      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, Training is not 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(link is external)


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.