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Increasing Evidence Supporting ToggleTalk: The Michigan Connection

Primary Investigator(s): Holly Craig

Funding Agency: Anonymous Michigan Donor

Period: 1/1/2015 - 12/31/2017

With an award from an Anonymous Michigan Foundation, funds have been provided to support the implementation in selected Michigan public schools of a new and innovative curricular program designed to equip teachers with the tools needed to teach conventional forms of English to students who speak a major socio-cultural dialect, African American English (AAE). The curriculum was developed with funding from a three year research grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to Holly K. Craig, Ph.D. Professor Emerita in the School of Education and is being distributed commercially, under the name ToggleTalk®, with sales in process across five states for this school year. There is considerable interest in this new program, but evidence supporting the use of ToggleTalk® remains limited. This research grant will fund the collection of additional outcome data. Funding would be used over a two year period to purchase the program for use in selected Michigan school districts, and to collect and analyze pre- and post-test student and teacher response data.

Prior research shows that students who learn to speak the language of the classroom and texts by code-switching to Standard American English (SAE) in literacy contexts perform at expected test score means, unlike their non-shifting peers who perform below expectations on reading tests. Teachers are under increasing pressure to teach their non-mainstream-speaking students to speak SAE. As part of Craig’s research grant, a small-scale study was conducted to examine the effectiveness of the new curriculum. She found that students learned to code-switch to SAE and teachers learned and implemented the program with fidelity. Importantly, the emerging bi-dialectal skills of the participating students were associated with a statistically significant jump in their reading scores.

Nationally, an unresolved and significant test score gap characterizes the academic achievement of African American students compared to their non-Hispanic White peers. Education- based solutions must be found to address this pressing problem. ToggleTalk® has tremendous potential to provide teachers and students with an effective approach to impacting the Black-White Achievement Gap for reading. This research grant will help strengthen the evidence supporting the new curriculum.