Giving extra literacy classes to struggling 9th grade readers boosts their reading comprehension skills, according to second-year findings released last month from an ongoing federal study.
But while the latest report confirms performance increases found in the first-year study, it also shows that the gains were not strong enough to get students up to grade level by the end of the school year.
The new results came last month in the second of three reports to be issued under the Enhanced Reading Opportunities Study, a federal program that is testing promising strategies for low-performing adolescent readers in 34 high schools across the country.
The study, which is being conducted by MDRC Inc. of New York City for the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, focuses on two highly recommended intervention programs. They are Reading Apprenticeship Academic Literacy, developed in 1996 by researchers from WestEd, a San Francisco-based research group, and Xtreme Reading, a 2005 creation of the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning in Lawrence.
High schools within the 10 districts studied were randomly assigned to try out the programs, which students take for at least 225 minutes a week on top of their regular language arts classes. Those schools, likewise, randomly assigned struggling readers to either the program class or a regularly scheduled elective.
The new findings track results for the second crop of 9th graders to move through the programs. They show that, overall, the programs moved students’ reading performance over the course of the school year from the 14th to the 25th percentile. That’s 17 percent better than the reading gains that the control group students made the same year.
Also, the study notes, the new results were not statistically different from the outcomes for the year before, when the first group of 9th graders moved through the program.
Consistent with the first report’s findings, the researchers also did not find any sizeable differences in results between the two programs. They did find, though, that the results were slightly better in classes that adhered more closely to program guidelines.
The final report on the project is expected to be published in late 2009.
A version of this article appeared in the December 10, 2008 edition of Education Week