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'Striving Readers' Evaluation: Read 180 Shows Effect at One Site


An evaluation of Striving Readers, the federal government's first reading program focused solely on adolescents, contains some good news about Read 180 Enterprise Edition, a program developed by Scholastic Inc. The evaluation found that the Ohio Department of Youth Services' use of Read 180 in juvenile correction facilities had a statistically significant impact on student achievement. The same was not true, however, for the three other Striving Readers sites that also used Read 180.

As I wrote in an article just published by Education Week, the Striving Readers program was found to have a statistically significant impact on student achievement at three of eight sites, in comparison with control groups at those same sites. But one reading expert I interviewed considered the effect at those three sites, including the Ohio one, to be small.

Nevertheless, Margery Mayer, the president of the education division of Scholastic, said she does not consider the effect size in Ohio to be small. "Every one of those young people grew a year in reading," she said. "It's a huge effect for them."

When I asked her why Read 180 in Ohio had an impact while it didn't at three other Striving Readers sites, she said she believes it's because the Ohio educators implemented the program particularly well. "When the program is implemented with fidelity, the program works."

The evaluation pointed out that reading achievement for the Striving Readers program in Ohio was measured by the Scholastic Reading Inventory, and since Scholastic is the developer of both that test and Read 180, it is possible that students in the Striving Readers group received instruction that was more closely aligned to the test than the instruction received by the control group. "This reduces the confidence with which the estimated impacts on [Scholastic Reading Inventory] scores can be considered a true impact of Read 180 on reading comprehension," the evaluation says.

The evaluators said that in the future, they will use scores on the Ohio state assessment to measure student achievement.

But Mayer said the findings of the impact on student achievement are credible because the assessment is not aligned with Read 180 in particular. She said it's a real feat that Striving Readers helped students in Ohio's juvenile correction facilities to improve their reading because their reading levels were very low. "How life-changing it can be to have the confidence and ability to read. That's what this is really all about," she said.


Celebrating one "statistically" significant result out of 4 sites really isn't warranted. Even in this one site the results have little practical significance. The "striving readers" were still in trouble.

The study is further evidence that if kids haven't been taught to read by Grade 3, the schools are currently impotent to ameliorate the condition. Stronger instruction is needed.

With unreliable reading instruction in the primary grades, kids acquire faulty reading strategies that are difficult to distinguish. And they also have negative psychological patterns that provide further obstacles.

Few studies look at the nuts and bolts of the instruction that is being provided. With "striving instruction" and "striving research," the kids get blamed. By adolescence, many have quit "striving" and have been conned to believe that it's their personal fault.

Let's be more critical of the publishing companies spin. As pointed out, the evaluation identified "teaching to the test". But when Mayer accuses instruction as lacking fidelity-she missed that Ohio had the lowest in-class fidelity to the study (see Table 5 of the report).

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