Springfield Public Schools, the second largest school system in Massachusetts, is a Title I district enrolling over 25,000 students. Springfield has four high schools, three of which participated in the Striving Readers Program. The neighboring Chicopee Public Schools, also a Title 1 district, enrolls around 8,000 students. Chicopee has two high schools, both of which participated in the Striving Readers Program.
From the 2006–2007 school year to the 2010–2011 school year, The Education Alliance at Brown University conducted a study involving five cohorts of targeted students from Springfield and Chicopee (Research and Evaluation Division, 2012). Students were randomly assigned to either the READ 180 treatment group, to a second intervention (Xtreme Reading®) comparison group, or to a business-as-usual control group.
In order to be eligible to participate in the study, students had to be reading at least two levels below grade level. Additionally, due to the requirements for Xtreme Reading, students identified for READ 180 were restricted to a range in performance from 680 Lexile® (L) measures to 855L on the Reading Inventory®. Seventy-one percent of the students who participated in the study were minority, 56% were female, 21% were students with disabilities, 4% were English learners, and 69% received free or reduced-price lunch.
To assess program impact, pretest and posttest data from the SDRT-4 were collected for 679 students (231 students in the READ 180 treatment group, 223 in the comparison group, and 225 in the control group) across the five years. To assess program implementation, input ratings and classroom model ratings were determined by teacher for each of the five years.
As Graph 1 displays, findings revealed that READ 180 students demonstrated greater gains than control group students on the SDRT-4 (effect size of .11). When the model was adjusted to account for pretest reading levels, this difference was significant (p=.03). READ 180 students outperformed the control group students, on average, by 1.5 points on unadjusted Normal Curve Equivalency (NCE) and 2.39 points on adjusted NCE. Conversely, students who were randomly assigned to the Xtreme Reading program did not show statistically significant gains over the control group students.
As Graph 2 shows, in schools where READ 180 classroom implementation levels were observed to be moderate or high, the average reading scores of READ 180 students, as measured by SDRT-4 NCE scores, were higher at posttest than control group scores. Controlling for pretest scores and other student characteristics, this difference was statistically significant. Results were more consistent over time for the majority of teachers, especially those implementing at high levels over the entire study period. This same pattern of findings was not found for Xtreme Reading schools. When Xtreme Reading classroom implementation levels were assessed in relationship to outcome scores, the relationship was not significant.
The Education Alliance at Brown University (2012). Springfield-Chicopee School Districts Striving Readers (SR) program. Final report years 1–5: Evaluation of implementation and impact. https://www2.ed.gov/programs/strivingreaders/springfieldyear5evalrpt.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/.