Reading Instruction

August, 2022
William Corrin, Pei Zhu, Miki Shih, Kevin Thaddeus Brown, Jr., Jedediah J. Teres, Catherine Darrow, Austin Nichols, Kelly Lack

Academic language skills are critical for reading and understanding content for all students, and particularly for English learners and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This study investigated WordGen Elementary, a program designed to improve fourth- and fifth-grade students’ ability to understand and communicate academic language and their general reading skill.

Almost 42 percent of third-grade students in Philadelphia are reading at or above grade level — which means that about 58 percent are reading below that level. For elementary school students, reading proficiency is critical not only for doing well in school, but for remaining in school in the future. In response to this situation, the City of Philadelphia put forth the...

Issue Focus
April, 2016
Joshua Malbin, Rekha Balu

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states greater responsibility for choosing strategies to improve underperforming schools. For over a decade, MDRC has rigorously evaluated school improvement strategies, collecting evidence that can help states determine which strategies are likely to work. This Issue Focus describes four of MDRC’s most recent studies.

While English language learners and disadvantaged native English speakers may have sufficient skills to engage in everyday conversation, many struggle with academic language, the more formal language typically used in school. In recent years, educators have linked lack of proficiency in academic language to concerns about students’ literacy and have hypothesized that...

November, 2015
Rekha Balu, Pei Zhu, Fred Doolittle, Ellen Schiller, Joseph Jenkins, Russell Gersten

This report describes the adoption of RtI practices in a large, multistate sample of schools, examines the implementation of tiered intervention services for students at risk of reading difficulty, and finds that assignment to receive intervention did not improve reading outcomes among students scoring just below the eligibility point.


Final Report from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Evaluation

September, 2015
Janet Quint, Pei Zhu, Rekha Balu, Shelley Rappaport, Micah DeLaurentis

This final report on the scale-up of Success for All, funded by a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant, examines the implementation, impact, costs, and expansion of this whole-school reading reform. It finds that second-graders in schools using the program outperformed their control-group counterparts on a measure of phonics skills.

March, 2015

This report examines the implementation and effects of an academic summer program for middle school students offered by Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL). The findings suggest that BELL students did not outperform non-BELL students in reading, but that the program may have had a positive effect on students’ math achievement.


Lessons from the Implementation of the Young Adult Literacy Program

February, 2015
Farhana Hossain, Emily Terwelp

MDRC conducted a study of the Young Adult Literacy program, created in New York City to prepare young adults for a high school equivalency certificate. Findings indicate that the program fills an important gap in services for disadvantaged and disconnected youth who lack critical academic and employment skills.


Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program

March, 2015
Robin Tepper Jacob, Catherine Armstrong, Jacklyn Willard

One-on-one tutoring by volunteers improves the reading proficiency of struggling second- to fifth-graders, according to MDRC’s random assignment study. As a program staffed mostly by volunteers, Reading Partners is substantially less costly than other supplemental reading services typically offered to struggling readers.