An Evaluation of Supplemental Reading Instruction for At-Risk Middle School Readers

By Berkeley, Sheri; Lindstrom, Jennifer H. et al. | Middle Grades Research Journal, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

An Evaluation of Supplemental Reading Instruction for At-Risk Middle School Readers


Berkeley, Sheri, Lindstrom, Jennifer H., Regan, Kelley, Nealy, Allison, Southall, Candice, Stagliano, Christina, Middle Grades Research Journal


One middle school's implementation of corrective reading was evaluated for student reading outcomes and treatment fidelity. Findings indicated that sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students made progress in decoding and oral reading fluency over the school year; however, students did not demonstrate greater gains during the semester enrolled in the corrective reading class compared to the semester they were not. Findings illustrate that a school's efforts to improve outcomes for struggling readers can be undermined without fidelity of instructional programs, highly effective teachers, and adequate professional development. Implications for supplemental reading programs at the secondary level are discussed.

According to Biancarosa and Snow (2006), there are approximately 8 million young adults between fourth and 12th grades that struggle to read on grade level, and 70% of older readers require remediation in reading. Across the nation, high school graduation rates remain low (Archer, Gleason, & Vachon, 2003; Biancarosa & Snow, 2006). A deficiency in reading skills at the secondary level not only hinders academic performance, but is the reason cited most by students for dropping out of school (Kamil, 2003; Snow & Biancarosa, 2003). In addition, a large number of high school graduates are not prepared for the complexity of reading and writing tasks that are assigned in college, and it is estimated that only about one third of these graduates have the skills needed to succeed in college English classes (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006). Further, as adults attempt to enter the workforce, some postsecondary training is necessary for advancement within the global marketplace. Only a little more than half of high school graduates have the reading and writing skills employers seek, and as a result, more individuals are taking jobs that do not require advanced skills such as oral and written language, problem solving, and critical thinking (Kamil, 2003).

The nation's literacy crisis is not new. In the past, focus has been placed on improving literacy skills of early elementary school students, primarily in kindergarten through third grade (e.g., Reading First). These efforts have been influential in raising reading scores of fourth graders, but have not prevented students from continually struggling with reading in later grades (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005). Reading demands change as students transition into middle and high school.

Struggling Adolescent Learners

Reading ability that was adequate for learning in the elementary grades no longer meets the demands faced by struggling adolescent readers entering middle school. For example, the structure of informational texts in secondary level content area classes are complex and conceptually dense, and these texts contain a greater volume of multisyllabic words and unfamiliar vocabulary terms (Saenz & Fuchs, 2002) . The apparent challenge for adolescents is further compounded when a weakness in one foundational skill of reading has a ripple effect, negatively influencing all aspects of the reading process. Older readers who struggle with decoding skills typically mispronounce affixes, omit syllables in words, lack confidence, and/or may read between the second and fifth grade reading level (Archer et al., 2003) . When adolescents lack the knowledge of morphological structure to decode multisyllabic words and lack the strategic knowledge for attacking unfamiliar words, they will no longer be able to focus on the meaning of the text. Subsequently, the essential skills of oral reading fluency and comprehension of text are significantly compromised (Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002; Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, & Jenkins, 2001).

According to Reading at Risk: The State Response to the Crisis in Adolescent Literacy (National Association of State Boards of Education, 2006):

By the time students reach fourth grade, they [adolescents] should have developed the ability to apply the alphabetic principle, that is, the ability to manipulate the sounds of oral language and phonics, and to correlate speech sounds with parts of words. …

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