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Effective Reading Programs for Middle and High Schools: A Best Evidence Synthesis

What reading programs have been proven to help middle and high school students to succeed? To find out, this review summarizes evidence on four types of programs designed to improve the reading achievement of students in grades 6-12:

  • Reading Curricula (Curr), such as LANGUAGE!, McDougal Littel, 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, strategy instruction, and other approaches primarily intended to change teachers’ instructional methods rather than curriculum or textbooks.
  • Combined CAI and Instructional Process Models (CAI + IP) such as READ 180 and Voyager Passport.

Key Findings

Overall, 36 experimental-control comparisons met the inclusion criterion, of which 7 used random assignment to treatments. No studies of reading curricula qualified, but there were 8 studies of CAI, 16 of instructional process programs, 10 of combined CAI and instructional process programs, and 2 of combined curriculum and instructional process programs. Effect sizes were averaged across studies, weighted by sample size.

  • Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI). Studies of CAI find minimal achievement outcomes. Mean weighted effect size across 8 studies: +0.10.
  • Instructional Process Strategies (IP). The largest number of high-quality studies evaluated instructional process programs, especially forms of cooperative learning (ES= +0.28 in 7 studies). Mean weighted effect size across 14 studies: +0.21.
  • Combined CAI and Instructional Process Programs (CAI + IP). Positive effects were found for READ 180. Mean weighted effect size across 9 studies: +0.22.
  • Combined Curriculum and Instructional Process Programs (Curr + IP). A randomized study of REACH found an effect size of 0.00, and the same study found an effect size of +0.17 for RISE

Program Ratings

The following link lists currently available programs, grouped by strength of effectiveness. Within each group, programs are listed alphabetically. The type for each program corresponds to the categories above (e.g., IP = Instructional Process Strategies).

The Best Evidence Encyclopedia is a free web site created by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education (CDDRE) under funding from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.