Napa Valley Unified School District, CA

Improving outcomes, reducing costs, and lowering special education referrals with READ 180.


Evaluation Period: 2011–2012 Grades: 3–11 Category: Disability, independent measure Assessment: California Standards Test of English Language Arts (CST ELA); California English Language Development Test (CELDT)Participants: N=18,078 Implementation: 90-Minute Model


Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) is representative of school districts in California, serving 18,078 students in 30 schools. Hispanic students comprise just under half the student population. Located in a demanding agricultural region, the district also serves a large migrant population.

In the 2011–2012 school year, NVUSD evaluated the effectiveness of READ 180 for students in Grades 3 through 11. READ 180 was first approved for use in the district in the 2005–2006 school year as a small pilot program. NVUSD monitored its success and slowly grew the program from a pilot to a district-wide service. READ 180 was chosen by the district as it is one of the most researched competency-based reading intervention programs available. Additionally,

READ 180 is designed to support positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) that identify and sustain effective school-wide academic and behavioral practices that improve student outcomes. READ 180 does this by incorporating instructional management routines, classroom engagement, clear goal setting, and rewards that may be implemented in parallel with positive behavior interventions. In these ways, READ 180 is in line with NVUSD’s vision for improving student outcomes while reducing costs.

Napa Valley Unified School District Ca Graph 1
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California Standards Test of English Language Arts (CST ELA) and California English Language Development Test (CELDT) scores were obtained for READ 180 students in Grades 3 through 11. Results from the CST ELA and CELDT demonstrated that the district’s READ 180 students significantly improved their reading comprehension skills. In the 2010–2011 school year, 6% of participating READ 180 students in Grades 3 through 11 were scoring Proficient and Above on the CST ELA. In 2011–2012, this number increased to 13%, including a jump from 8% to 33% for the district’s fourth graders. The CELDT corroborated these gains. Students using READ 180 experienced significant improvements from the 2011 to the 2012 assessment. In 2012, 48% of READ 180 students were scoring Early Advanced and Above on CELDT, up from 17% in the prior year. See Graph 1.

In addition, the district tracked lower referral rates into special education since 2001. In 2004, the district recorded 1,164 students with specific learning disabilities. In 2011, that count dropped to 695. This trend allowed NVUSD to reduce its special education caseload, reduce its associated costs for students with specific learning disabilities, and better focus its services on its academic and behavioral priorities. See Figure 1.

As part of the positive behavioral intervention program implemented at NVUSD, READ 180 has contributed to improved behavioral outcomes and cost savings. In 2009, the district recorded 58 expulsions. That figure dropped to 26 expulsions in 2012, which represents $188,600 in savings. Suspensions dropped from 4,881 to 2,086 from 2010 to 2012, representing $83,850 in savings. See Figure 2.