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Reports Offer Good News on Adolescent Reading Front

In reading education, researchers have come to know lots about teaching young children how to decipher words. The struggling adolescent reader, on the other hand, is still unconquered territory.

Here are a couple of new reports, however, that offer a sliver of hope. The first is a randomized experiment on a program called Read Right. Currently used in about 500 schools across the country, the model calls for students to be taught in separate classes during the school day with no more than five students per tutor. (This is in addition to their regular English language arts classes.) Another hallmark of the program is that it emphasizes teaching comprehension, accuracy, pacing, and intonation, rather than phonics or vocabulary.

For their study, which was funded by the Omaha-based Sherwood Foundation, researchers from Education Northwest tested the program last fall with 424 students in Omaha secondary schools. They concluded that the program resulted in significant positive effects on students' reading comprehension and spurred more students to read for fun outside of school. This was the first experimental study, by the way, to be conducted on the program, which was developed by Dee Tadlock.

The second report is an analysis posted this month by the What Works Clearinghouse. The clearinghouse, as you undoubtedly know by now, is a federally supported outfit that vets the research on widely used education policies, programs, and strategies. In this case, the reviewers took a look at a program called Reading Apprenticeship, an instructional approach developed at WestEd that involves students in analyzing their own reading strategies, as well as those used by their teachers and other classmates as they grapple with content-area texts across the school curriculum.

The clearinghouse found one study on the program that met its famously tough evidence standards. Conducted by WestEd itself, the study involved 2,000 9th graders in 17 high schools in 10 districts across the country. The bottom line, according to the WWC review: The program has "potentially positive effects" on improving students' reading comprehension.

Look for the trickle of research in this area to turn into a torrent over the next few years, thanks to a $100 million research program on reading comprehension unveiled last month by the Institute of Education Sciences.

UPDATE: The Reading Apprenticeship study was actually conducted by MDRC and the American Institutes for Research and not WestEd, as indicated above. That's an important distinction. That makes the good results even better, to my mind.

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