4-Year Evaluation of Reading Recovery Expansion Finds Strong Gains in Student Reading Achievement

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The evaluation by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education was one of the largest and most rigorous ever implemented in the field of education.

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Phil Sirinides/CPRE
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Henry May/CRESP

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March 17, 2016 – The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education has released its evaluation of one of the most ambitious and well-documented expansions of a U.S. instructional curriculum. The rigorous independent evaluation of the Investing in Innovation (i3) scale-up of Reading Recovery, a literacy intervention for struggling first graders, was a collaboration between CPRE and the Center for Research on Education and Social Policy (CRESP) at the University of Delaware.

This evaluation included a four-year, multi-site randomized control trial (RCT) involving nearly 7,000 first-grade students in more than 1,200 schools. The study, which found medium to large effects on student achievement in reading, contributes to a growing body of research on the conditions for, and impacts of, scaling up instructional programs. Reading Recovery is a short-term intervention that provides one-on-one tutoring to first-grade students who are struggling in reading. The supplementary program aims to promote literacy skills and foster the development of reading strategies by tailoring individualized lessons to each student.

As part of the scale-up, the 3,747 teachers trained in Reading Recovery with i3 grant funds provided one-to-one Reading Recovery lessons to 62,000 students and taught an additional 325,000 students in other instructional settings.

The CPRE/CRESP evaluation revealed that students who participated in Reading Recovery significantly outperformed students in the control group on measures of overall reading, reading comprehension, and decoding. These effects were similarly large for English language learners and students attending rural schools, which were the student subgroups of priority interest for the i3 scale-up grant program.

The study included an in-depth analysis of program implementation. Key findings focus on the contextual factors of the school and teachers that support the program’s success and the components of instructional strength in Reading Recovery. Impacts on student reading performance:

  • The RCT revealed medium to large impacts across all outcome measures. Effect sizes on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) Reading Total assessment and its Comprehension and Reading Words subscales at the end of 12 to 20 weeks of treatment ranged between 0.30 and 0.48 standard deviations.
  • For the ITBS Total Reading battery, this effect size translates to a gain of +18 percentage points in the treatment group, as compared with control students.
  • The growth rate observed in students who participated in Reading Recovery over approximately a five-month period was 131% of the national average rate of progress for first-grade students.

The research team and the i3 scale-up leadership at The Ohio State University will present these and other findings from the evaluation and scale-up process on April 9 at the 2016 meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

The evaluation was funded by an i3 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement to The Ohio State University. The grant, which was awarded in 2010, totaled $45 million to cover the expansion of Reading Recovery around the U.S., with an additional $10.1 million raised from the private sector. Of this, $4 million was earmarked for the completion of the independent evaluation of the scale-up effort between 2011 and 2015. The report can be accessed at http://www.cpre.org/reading-recovery-evaluation-four-year-i3-scale.

 The Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), established under section 14007 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is a federal discretionary grant program at the U.S. Department of Education, within the Office of Innovation and Improvement. It provides funding to support partnerships between local educational agencies or nonprofit organizations with one or more local educational agencies or a consortium of schools.

About CPRE: Since 1983, CPRE has brought together renowned experts from major research universities to improve elementary and secondary education by bridging the gap between educational policy and student learning. CPRE researchers employ a range of rigorous and innovative research methods to investigate pressing problems in education today. Having earned an international reputation for quality research and evaluation, CPRE researchers have extensive experience conducting experimental studies, large-scale quasi-experimental research, qualitative students, and multi-state policy research. CPRE’s member institutions are the University of Pennsylvania, Teachers College Columbia University, Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Northwestern University.

About CRESP: CRESP conducts rigorous research to help policymakers and practitioners in education, healthcare, and human services determine which policies and programs are most promising for improving outcomes in children, youth, adults, and families. CRESP specializes in experimental and quasi-experimental research that uses quantitative and mixed methods to evaluate how and how well programs and interventions work to improve educational, family, and health outcomes in schools and communities. 


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