During the 2009–2010 school year, three public school districts in central Indiana, eastern Massachusetts, and southeastern Michigan piloted System 44 for their most challenged readers who had not yet mastered basic phonics and decoding skills. Total student enrollment in these three urban districts varied from 12,220 to 16,536 students, representing a diverse mix of English learners (EL) and students with disabilities. Across the three districts, a total of 331 students participated in System 44 during the 2009–2010 school year. Of the 85 students with disabilities, 30 (35%) were elementary school students, 35 (41%) were middle school students, and 20 (24%) were high school students. The multisite sample varied ethnically: 40% of the students were Hispanic, 25% were White, 25% were African American, and 10% were multiethnic.
A total of 85 System 44 third- through eleventh-grade students with disabilities across the three districts comprise the sample in this report. Students were placed into System 44 if they scored below 400 Lexile® (L) measures on the Reading Inventory® and exhibited difficulty with word-reading skills on the Phonics Inventory®. A stand-alone model was used in all three districts. In one district, System 44 was implemented in a 60-minute classroom period that started with a 10-minute whole-group introduction, followed by 25-minute rotations on the instructional software and in small-group instruction. In the other two districts, System 44 classroom periods ranged from 50 to 90 minutes. In all of these classrooms, students participated in whole-group and small-group instruction and were expected to use the software for at least 25 minutes a day. For the purposes of this analysis, all models were analyzed together.
Fall 2009 and spring 2010 Woodcock-Johnson® III (WJ III®), Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE), and Reading Inventory data were gathered from 85 System 44 students with disabilities. Results showed that the System 44 students with disabilities revealed significant improvements in both word-reading and reading comprehension skills. After participation in System 44, students in the sample averaged a statistically significant standard score gain of 3 points on the Basic Reading Skills (BRS) cluster of the WJ III, a test that measures word-identification skills and proficiency in applying phonics and structural analysis to the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words. Students demonstrated a gain of 2 points on the TOWRE Total Word Reading Efficiency, the subtest that measures students’ ability to recognize sight words and “sound out” nonwords (Table 1).
Additionally, an evaluation of changes in grade equivalent scores on the WJ III Basic Reading Skills cluster showed that from 2009 to 2010, the percentage of students with disabilities performing at the fourth-grade equivalent or higher more than doubled, from 11% to 26% (Graph 1). Overall, System 44 students with disabilities demonstrated a significant improvement in reading comprehension on the Reading Inventory. On average, the 71 System 44 students with pretest and posttest Reading Inventory Lexile data advanced from 157L in the fall to 241L in the spring, a significant gain of 84L (Graph 2).