Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Federal Study Finds Four Major Supplemental Reading Programs Don’t Work

A new federal study on four reading comprehension programs for fifth grade students came to a disturbing conclusion. Three of the programs had no effect, and the fourth actually had a negative effect.

Education Week reports (subscription), “that Project CRISS, developed by Creating Independence Through Student-Owned Strategies; Read About, produced by Scholastic Inc.; and Read for Real, created by Chapman University and Zaner-Bloser, had no effect on reading comprehension.”

The paper also summarizes the report’s findings for the fourth program, Reading for Knowledge, created by the Success for All Foundation. Per Ed Week, researchers say that program, “...had a negative impact on the composite test scores and the science-comprehension test scores for students using that curriculum.”

To be fair, this was a report on the first year of random, split sample trials. A second year of analysis is planned, and the results could look better in year two.
Still, the facts are that this study relied on scientific, random split samples, quite unlike most education reports which, as we have mentioned before, usually suffer from a lack of scientific rigor. You just cannot establish whether something works or not with such loosely conducted research.

Also, this new report looked at a lot of students and teachers. Furthermore, the research team claims no conflicts of interest (quite unlike most education reports where authors often have a vested interest in the program under study).

If you know of schools in Kentucky using these programs, we’d like to hear about that. And, if your school does use one of these supplemental reading comprehension programs, be ready for some rather unimpressive results.

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