According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a majority of ninth-graders in low-performing high schools begin their freshman year with significant reading difficulties. Poor reading ability is a key predictor of academic disengagement and, ultimately, dropping out.
This report presents findings from the second year of the Enhanced Reading Opportunities (ERO) study, a demonstration and random assignment evaluation of two supplemental literacy programs — Reading Apprenticeship Academic Literacy and Xtreme Reading — that aim to improve the reading comprehension skills and school performance of struggling ninth-grade readers.
The supplemental literacy programs are full-year courses targeted to students whose reading skills are two to five years below grade level as they enter high school. The ERO class, designed to serve 12-15 students, replaces a ninth-grade elective, and it is offered in addition to students’ regular English language arts classes. The programs seek to help ninth-grade students learn and employ the strategies used by proficient readers, improve their comprehension skills, and increase their motivation to read more and to enjoy what they read. For this demonstration, one teacher at each school was trained to teach the literacy program, and she or he exclusively taught the course to four sections of students.
This report focuses on the second of two cohorts of ninth-grade students who participated in the study and discusses the impact that the two interventions have had on their reading comprehension skills.
- On average across the 34 participating high schools, the supplemental literacy programs had a positive and statistically significant impact on students’ reading comprehension test scores (an effect size of 0.08 standard deviation). The average student in the study sample started the year reading at a grade-level equivalent of 4.9. Those students assigned to the ERO classes were reading at a 6.1 grade equivalent by the end of the year, compared with a 6.0 grade equivalent for students in the control group. Even though the students in ERO classes showed improvement in reading comprehension, however, 77 percent of them were still reading at two or more years below grade level at the end of ninth grade.
- The impact of the ERO programs on reading comprehension test scores in the second year of implementation was not statistically different from their impact in the first year of implementation.
- In terms of fidelity of program implementation, the ERO programs as implemented in 26 of the high schools were rated as well aligned to the program models. The program at one school was rated as poorly aligned to its program model. The fidelity ratings in the second year were higher than in the first year, when the programs at 16 schools were rated as well aligned to the program models and the programs at 10 schools were rated as poorly aligned.
- The ERO classes in 23 high schools were up and running within the first two weeks of the school year, and program duration was 9.1 months on average across all 34 high schools. This represents faster start-up and longer duration than in the first year, when none of the ERO classes started sooner than three weeks into the school year, and on average the programs ran for 7.7 months.
The final report from the study — scheduled for 2009 — will examine the impact of the ERO programs on the educational achievement and attainment outcomes of both cohorts of ninth-grade students as they progress through high school.