Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) consists of 175 schools enrolling approximately 80,000 students in Grades K through 12. In 2010, 63% of eighth-grade students were Proficient or Advanced on the state test, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), and 39% of tenth-grade students were Proficient or Advanced on the WKCE.
During the 2010–2011 school year, American Institutes for Research® (AIR®) conducted a study of the Wisconsin Striving Readers Program (Swanlund, Dahlke, Tucker, Kleidon, Kregor, Davidson-Gibbs, & Halberg, 2012). The program was originally planned to last two years, but because Congress eliminated the Striving Readers program midway through the grant, the study only followed students through one year of the intervention.
Students were eligible to participate in the study if they received a score of Minimal or Basic on the WKCE. Students who did not have a WKCE score were also eligible based on having a score of Minimal or Basic on the district benchmark assessment, ThinkLink. If a student did not have a recorded score for either of these assessments, eligibility could be established based on teacher assessments and observations indicating that the student was performing at least two grade levels below expectations. The majority of students who participated in the program were African American (70%), followed by 19% Hispanic, 7% White, and 4% other. Thirty-six percent were students with disabilities, 8% were English learners, and 88% received free or reduced-priced meals.
To assess program implementation, professional development ratings and classroom model ratings were determined based on professional development logs, teacher interviews, and principal interviews. To assess program impact, data from MAP® were collected for 619 students (335 students in the READ 180 treatment group and 284 in the control group).
As Graph 1 displays, in terms of fidelity of implementation of the professional development model, five of eight classrooms (62.5%) received a rating of medium (29–40), and three of eight classrooms (37.5%) received a rating of high (41–51). The average score across all classrooms was 39, which indicated that there was a medium level of fidelity. Overall, the READ 180 classroom model was implemented with high fidelity; however, due to low student attendance, seven of eight classrooms (87.5%) received a rating of medium, and one of eight classrooms (12.5%) received a rating of low. Teachers reported that prior experience teaching READ 180 and the support of the district READ 180 coordinator were important facilitators for successfully implementing the model.
There was a statistically significant impact on the reading achievement of struggling readers in Grades 6–9 after one year of exposure to READ 180 instruction (effect size of .14). On MAP, students in the READ 180 treatment group scored approximately 1.8 points higher than students in the control group when controlling for pretest scores and student-level covariates.
Swanlund, A., Dahlke, K., Tucker, N., Kleidon, B., Kregor, J., Davidson-Gibbs, D., & Halberg, K. (2012). Striving readers: Impact study and project evaluation report. Naperville, IL: American Institute for Research. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED595200.pdf
The Striving Readers Program was funded by the United States Department of Education with two aims: 1) to raise middle and high school students’ literacy levels in Title I-eligible schools with significant numbers of students reading below grade levels; and 2) to build a strong, scientific research base for identifying and replicating strategies that improve adolescent literacy skills. The full reports for each district are available at www2.ed.gov/programs/strivingreaders/.