During the 2005–2006 and 2006–2007 school years, Seminole County Public Schools collaborated with researchers at the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) and Florida State University (FSU) to compare the effects of different reading interventions in high schools on student achievement (Lang et al., 2009). Of the 1,197 ninth-grade students in the study, 51% were White, 20% were Hispanic, 20% were African American, and 9% represented other ethnicities. In addition, 43% of students were eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, and 12% were English learners (EL).
Students were selected for the study based on their 2005–2006 Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT®) Reading test scores from the spring of their eighth-grade year. Three hundred eighty-five students reading below a fourth-grade level (Level 1 on the FCAT) were identified as “High Risk,” and 812 students reading between a fourth- and a sixth-grade level (Level 2 on the FCAT) were identified as “Moderate Risk.” Students in each level were randomly assigned to one of four intensive reading intervention programs: READ 180, a “business-as-usual” control group, a published reading intervention (Program A), or a thematic text-set approach (Program B).
READ 180 was assigned to 307 students (or 25.6% of the total sample). Approximately 26% of READ 180 students were classified as High Risk students, and 26% of READ 180 students were classified as Moderate Risk students.
In order to measure the effectiveness of READ 180, teacher retention data and FCAT test scores were collected from READ 180 teachers and students. A preliminary analysis from Scholastic Research (2007) revealed that teachers of READ 180 had the highest retention rates during the 2005–2006 school year. The retention rate of READ 180 teachers was 96%. However, the teacher-retention rate of the other two interventions was much lower: 75% and 50%, respectively (Graph 1).
Results from the FCRR and FSU analysis revealed that from 2006 to 2007, the FCAT Developmental Scale Score (DSS) gains evidenced by READ 180 students exceeded both the state average and the state’s benchmark for expected growth. During the study year, the average statewide mean gain on the FCAT Reading between the end of eighth grade to the end of ninth grade was 66 DSS points, and the state benchmark for yearly growth was 77 DSS points. Among READ 180 students, those in the High Risk group gained an average of 124 DSS points and those in the Moderate Risk group gained an average of 105 DSS points (Graph 2).
The results also showed that while all the programs produced statistically equal gains in FCAT Reading scores for High Risk students, READ 180 produced the highest gains of the four interventions among Moderate Risk students. This group of students, reading roughly two grades below level, represents the target population for READ 180 intervention. The READ 180 Moderate Risk students’ average gain of 105 DSS points was significantly higher than the average 70 (DSS) points gain achieved by their counterparts in the control group (Graph 3).
Lang, L., Torgesen, J. K., Vogel, W., Chanter, C., Lefsky, E., & Petscher, Y. (2009). Exploring the relative effectiveness of reading interventions for high school students. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2, 149–175.
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