Scholastic’s Exaggerated Claim: “US DOE Striving Reader Study Proves READ 180 Works!”
A recent ad from Scholastic claims that READ 180 students have made “tremendous progress” in three locations: Newark, Springfield Mass, and Ohio, citing a US Department of Education report on Striving Readers programs. Scholastic notes that differences between READ 180 students and comparisons were not significantly different in another site, Memphis.
A look at the actual DOE report shows that the differences between READ 180 students and comparisons in “regular” classrooms weren’t very large anywhere.
Newark (grades 6-8): After three years, READ 180 students were only one percentile better than comparisons on tests of vocabulary (effect size = .02; 20th percentile vs. 19th) and comprehension (effect size = .09; 30th percentile compared to 29th), and were only two percentiles better on a test of language arts (effect size = .12; 20th percentile compared to 18th) (DOE Report, p. 101).
Springfield (grade 9): After one year, READ 180 students were four percentiles better than comparisons in reading comprehension (effect size = .11; 20th percentile compared to 16th). (DOE Report, p. 87).
Ohio (grade 9): After one year, READ 180 students were four percentiles better than comparisons in reading comprehension (effect size = .26, 15th percentile vs. 11th). (DOE Report, p. 84). READ 180 students, however, had 90 minutes of language arts each day. The comparisons had 45 minutes of language arts, and then had an elective (e.g. math, technology education) for 45 minutes. (DOE Report, pages 80, 231).
These are very small differences, and very disappointing considering the time, money, and effort dedicated to READ 180. Any claim that READ 180 can close the achievement gap is unjustified. After one year, READ 180 9th grade students moved from the 16th to 20th percentile (Springfield and Ohio). If they maintain this pace, they will reach only the 32nd percentile by grade 12. Sixth graders gaining two percentiles per year (Newark) will move from the 20th percentile to the 32nd by grade 12.
In contrast, Kim (2004) estimated that just reading five books over the summer results in a gain of about three percentiles, about the same as the huge investment required by Read 180.
Kim, J. 2004. Summer Reading and the Ethnic Achievement Gap. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 9(2):169-188.
DOE Report: Summary of 2006 Striving Readers Projects: Implementation and Evaluation of Targeted Interventions for Struggling Readers and Whole School Interventions for All Readers: Years 1—4. Abt Associates. Available at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/strivingreaders/performance.html
Ad: US DOE Striving Reader Study Proves READ 180 Works! Appeared on ASCD Smartbrief March 2, 2012.
Press Release, Scholastic, Nov 15, 2011. Four Years of U.S. Department of Education Research Shows "READ 180" Effective in Combating Adolescent Illiteracy. http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/node/517?EML=PI/eb/20120302/ASCD/banner/USDOEStrivingReaders/Read_the_Release/read180/728x90/