Effectiveness of Selected Supplemental Reading Comprehension Interventions: Findings from Two Student Cohorts

Institute of Education Sciences
May 2010

Add this to the list of high-dollar federally-supported gold-plated randomized studies showing “no impact” of an education intervention. A second year follow-up evaluation, it investigates the effect of three supplemental reading curricula: Project CRISS, ReadAbout, and Read for Real. The original (first year) study examined use of the curricula in ten urban districts and its impact on the academic performance of over 6,000 fifth graders after one year (2006-07). Not surprisingly for an intervention with such a short time period, there was no effect. This new installment analyzes a second year of data for the original cohort, who did not use the programs in year two, to see if there were any longer-term effects from exposure to the curricula during year one. There weren’t. Analysts also added a new cohort of fifth-graders in year two (2007-08); these students used the curriculum the second year and tended to have teachers who had experience with the curriculum (having taught it to the previous cohort). Here, one of the curricula (ReadAbout) had a moderately positive impact on reading comprehension in social studies (but not on general reading comprehension or reading comprehension in science). There were no impacts elsewhere. If you’re not snoring yet, there is one interesting tidbit: None of these programs led to an increase in teachers’ use of “informational texts” (also known as content-based reading). Scholars such as E.D. Hirsch maintain that the teaching of reading comprehension and content go hand in hand—in other words, you can’t teach reading as an isolated skill—so the fact that these programs did not do this may have contributed to the nill results. You can find the 374-page (and the 24-page executive summary) here.

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