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Beyond the Basics: Effective Reading Programs for the Upper Elementary Grade

What reading programs have been proven to help students in grades 2-5 to succeed? To find out, this review summarizes evidence on three types of programs designed to improve the reading achievement of students in grades 2-5:

  • Reading Curricula (Curr), such as Open Court, Harcourt, Reading Street and other standard and alternative textbooks
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI), such as Jostens/Compass Learning and Accelerated Reader.
  • Instructional Process Programs (IP), such as cooperative learning and classroom management and motivation approaches, and cross-age tutoring.

General Findings

Overall, 80 experimental-control comparisons met the inclusion criteria, of which 25 used random assignment to treatments. Effect sizes (proportion of a standard deviation) were averaged across studies, weighting by sample size.

  • Reading Curricula Studies of reading curricula found minimal effects of using particular textbooks. Overall weighted mean effect size across 16 studies: +0.06.
  • Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI). Studies of CAI also found minimal effects. Mean weighted effect size across 31 studies: +0.06.
  • Instructional Process Programs (IP). Studies of programs that provide extensive professional development to help teachers use well-specified teaching methods had relatively positive effects overall. Mean weighted effect size across 33 studies: +0.21. Particularly positive effects were found for cooperative learning (ES=+0.21 in 10 studies).