Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Assessing the Effects of the Reading Success Level A Program with Fourth-Grade Students at a Title I Elementary School

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Assessing the Effects of the Reading Success Level A Program with Fourth-Grade Students at a Title I Elementary School

Article excerpt


The purpose of this investigation was to assess the effects of the Reading Success Level A program on the comprehension skills of 93 fourth graders across four general education classrooms. Two general education teachers participated in this study over a 6-month period. Pre- and posttest data were collected on individual student performance using the Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI). In addition, within-program assessments including mastery quizzes and tests were administered as part of the program. Results showed that students who participated in Reading Success Level A demonstrated statistically significant gains in reading comprehension performance. In addition, at-risk readers made similar gains to those readers who were not at-risk indicating that Reading Success Level A was effective across students.


Without a doubt reading is the most important skill that students can acquire in school (Meese, 2001). It is closely tied to writing, spelling, mathematics, and content area activities. Reading at high levels is associated with continued academic success, significantly reduced risk for school dropout, and higher rates of entering college and finding successful employment (Lyon, 1999; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Despite the importance of reading in our society, statistics continue to show that high percentages of students struggle with reading. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that 40% of fourth graders and 32% of eighth graders did not meet the basic requirements set forth by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading (NCES, 2003). These basic requirements include skills in examining literature, reading for information, and deciphering specific information to perform tasks. Furthermore, reading is the area where most students qualify for special education services (Meese, 2001).

Given the high percentage of students who struggle in reading and the debate over how best to teach reading, Congress mandated the formation of the National Reading Panel (NRP) in 1997. The NRP's task was to review and evaluate supporting literature on effective reading instruction and to summarize the results; over 100,000 studies published in reading since 1966 and 15,000 before that time were examined. The NRP Report (National Institute for Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000) found five areas of instruction critical to the success of beginning readers and those in need of remediation. These areas include: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension. Each of these five areas of effective reading instruction is best acquired through systematic and explicit instruction. Systematic instruction is defined as "the plan of instruction that includes a carefully selected set of letter-sound relationships that are organized into a logical sequence" (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2003, p. 19). Explicit instruction pertains to "a systematic method of teaching with emphasis on proceeding in small steps, checking for student understanding, and achieving active and successful participation by all students" (Rosenshine, 1987, p. 34). When reading instruction is systematic and explicit, reading skills are acquired at higher levels (Armbruster et al., 2003).

The first three areas of effective reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency) are typically referred to as "learning to read" or decoding skills (Schieffer, Marchand-Martella, Martella, & Simonsen, 2002). Emphasis for beginning readers is on sound-symbol correspondence, blending and reading words the "fast way," and fluent text reading. When "learning to read" skills are well developed, comprehension is enhanced (Osborn, Lehr, & Hiebert, 2003). According to Armbruster et al. (2003), increased reading fluency "frees students to understand (comprehend) what they read" (p. 31).

In addition to "learning to read" skills, it is important that systematic and explicit instruction be provided when acquiring "reading to learn" skills. …

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