Effectiveness of Selected Supplemental Reading Comprehension Interventions: Findings from Two Student Cohorts

Effectiveness of Selected Supplemental Reading Comprehension Interventions: Findings from Two Student Cohorts

Effectiveness of Selected Supplemental Reading Comprehension Interventions: Findings from Two Student Cohorts

Effectiveness of Selected Supplemental Reading Comprehension Interventions: Findings from Two Student Cohorts

Excerpt

Improving the ability of disadvantaged children to read and comprehend text is an important element in federal education policy aimed at closing the achievement gap. Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 calls on educators to close the gap between low- and highachieving students, using approaches found effective in scientifically based research. Such research is limited, however, so it is difficult for educators to decide how best to use Title I funds to improve student outcomes. Finding effective interventions to improve reading comprehension is part of this challenge.

There are increasing cognitive demands on student knowledge in middle elementary grades where students become primarily engaged in reading to learn, rather than learning to read (Chall 1983). Children from disadvantaged backgrounds often lack general vocabulary, as well as vocabulary related to academic concepts that enable them to comprehend what they are reading and acquire content knowledge (Hart and Risley 1995). They also often do not know how to use strategies to organize and acquire knowledge from informational text in content areas such as science and social studies (Snow and Biancarosa 2003). Instructional approaches for improving comprehension are not as well developed as those for decoding and fluency (Snow 2002). Although multiple techniques for direct instruction of comprehension in narrative text have been well demonstrated in small studies, there is not as much evidence on the effectiveness of teaching reading comprehension within content areas (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 2000).

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has undertaken a rigorous evaluation of interventions designed to improve reading comprehension as one step toward meeting that research gap. The Impact Evaluation of Reading Comprehension Interventions, begun in 2004, will contribute to the scientific research base available to practitioners. Carefully selected reading comprehension interventions were tested using a rigorous experimental design to determine their effects on reading comprehension among fifthgrade students in selected districts across the country.

Concerns over students’ reading achievement helped shape IES’s process for defining research on issues related to Title I and the ultimate decision to focus this evaluation on reading comprehension of informational text. IES contracted with Mathematica Policy Research and its subcontractors in October 2002 to help identify issues relevant to Title I evaluation and to propose evaluation design options, and later, in October 2004, to conduct an evaluation. IES

Findings from the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that one-third of the nation’s fourth graders have difficulty reading (U.S. Department of Education 2007). Other estimates suggest as many as 30 percent of elementary, middle, and high school students have reading problems that curtail educational progress and attainment (Moats 1999).

These subcontractors were RMC Research Corporation, RG Research Group, the Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Utah, and Evaluation Research Services.

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