NewsArticles of Interest

Educational Leadership: Interventions That Work: The Words Students Need
Recommended audience: District and school administrators, teachers.

This short article focuses on whole-school vocabulary instruction at the middle school level. The authors present research findings on the most effective methods for delivering vocabulary instruction. Highlighted in the article are the benefits of the Word Generation Program, which operates under the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP). A handy list of online resources for vocabulary instruction is also included in this article.

Effective Reading Programs for Middle and High Schools: A Best Evidence Synthesis
Authors: Robert E. Slavin, Alan Cheung, Cynthia Groff, Cynthia Lake
Reading Research Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 3 (July - Sept, 2008), pp. 290-322
Recommended Audience: Educational Researchers, District Leaders, Curriculum Directors, Professional Development Directors

This article systematically reviews research on the achievement outcomes of four types of approaches to improving the reading of middle and high school students:

Programs designed to change daily teaching practices have substantially greater research support than those focused on curriculum or technology along. Positive achievement effects were found for instructional-process programs, especially for those involving cooperative learning, and for mixed-method programs. Effective programs had extensive professional development and significantly affected teaching practices. In contrast, no studies of reading curricula met the inclusion criteria, and the effects of supplementary computer-assisted instruction were small. An important conclusion of this research is that there are few large, high-quality studies of middle and high school reading programs.

Factors Affecting Urban African American High School Students’ Achievement in Reading
Flowers and Flowers

This article uses data from a 2002 longitudinal study to examine the influence of time spent on homework and parent expectations on reading achievement of urban African American high school students. The authors summarize recent research on reading and assert that more research is needed on home and school engagement factors and on high school African American students. The study described in this article showed positive and significant effects in the areas of family income, parents expectations of the child's educational future, and hours spend doing homework. Limitations of the study included the areas examined in the study (home experiences, not school related factors such as instructional quality) and not surveying only urban schools. Implications for the results include working with parents and librarians to improve reading selections, holding teachers and administrators accountable for making reading gains, and increasing the use of culturally relevant pedagogy in more classrooms.

Untapped Cultural Support: The Influence of Culturally Bound Prior Knowledge on Comprehension Performance

This article details a study that shows a high level of culturally bound knowledge supports students' reading comprehension. Using previous literature on schema theory and reading research the author incorporates the analogy of a tool lit that readers use to comprehend and interpret text. Tools may be technical, psychological, or logical. Results from the study show students' level of culturally bound knowledge significantly influenced their reading comprehension level despite prior achievement level. These result highlight the importance of considering students' backgrounds and the text and instructional choices made in our classrooms.

Research StudiesResearch Studies

Effectiveness of Selected Supplemental Reading Comprehension Interventions: Impacts on a First Cohort of Fifth-Grade Students
Recommended audience: Administrators responsible for programmatic decisions may find this study helpful.

The intent of the study was to address the need for deeper understanding of how to teach reading comprehension within content areas for students in middle elementary grades and to add to the research identifying interventions that improve reading comprehension.

This study assessed the effects on fifth-grade students of four reading comprehension curricula, including Project CRISS, ReadAbout, Read for Real, and Reading for Knowledge.

The main finding from the first year of the study regarding intervention effectiveness was that the test scores for randomly assigned schools were not statistically significantly higher than the control schools. In addition, “Reading comprehension test scores in schools using the selected reading comprehension curricula were statistically significantly lower than scores in control schools for some subgroups defined by student, teacher and school characteristics (p. xxi).”

The study was provided by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance: Institute of Education Sciences, May 2009.

Assisting Students Struggling with Reading: Response to Intervention (RtI) and Multi-Tier Intervention in the Primary Grades
NCEE 2009-4045
US Department of Education
What Works Clearinghouse
Recommended Audience: District Leaders, Curriculum Directors, RtI/Assessment Directors

This practice guide offers five concrete recommendations for helping elementary schools implement an RtI framework to ensure that all students in the primary grades learn to read. These recommendations include:

The practice guide also offers: a summary of the evidence (low to strong); checklists to aid implementation progress; identification of specific skill areas to target for early screening and progress monitoring; and discussion of potential roadblocks with suggested approaches to overcome the potential roadblocks.

A Critical Mission: Making Adolescent Reading an Immediate Priority in SREB States
Recommended audience: District Administration in the areas of Curriculum, Assessment and Professional Development.

This report outlines recommendations for the 16 Southwest Regional Educational Board (SREB) states to address the failure of middle and high schools to develop the requisite reading and writing skills of students' necessary to meet higher academic standards later in their educational careers.

Final recommendations require the establishment of statewide policies through legislation, and the following four areas are identified:

  1. States need to identify the reading skills students need in order to improve their reading achievement and meet state standards in key academic subjects in the middle grades and high school.
  2. States should help classroom teachers incorporate the identified skills into curricula and instruction.
  3. States need to create statewide intervention programs to help students develop the reading skills they need - through tutoring, small-group sessions and other types of intensive help for struggling readers in each public school.
  4. States need to ensure that teachers and school leaders are well trained in how to help students improve their reading skills.

Carnegie Report, Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools

This report identifies 11 elements of current writing instruction found to be effective for helping adolescent students learn to write well and to use writing as a tool for learning. These 11 elements were identified through a meta-analysis of the research conducted on adolescent writers. By using a meta-analysis, the authors were able to determine the consistency and strength of the effects of instructional practices on student writing quality and to highlight those practices that hold the most promise. There is a description, effect size, and example for each of the elements. An appendix contains an annotated bibliography of the studies used in the meta-analysis. Although the research was conducted on adolescent writers, the information in the report could be used by adult literacy practitioners to help their students improve their writing.

The report is organized for a general audience of educators and interested lay persons. The findings are presented as a set of 11 instructional methods that are supported by research. Each method is described briefly with an example and the findings are summarized briefly. An annotated list of all the studies is included in an appendix to help interested educators find more information. General comments on effective writing instruction are also included. Details of the review methodology are in an appendix.

Carnegie Report, Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy

Reading Next is a report that provides recommendations for meeting the needs of the eight million struggling adolescent readers and provides a vision for capturing the effects of what elements work, when, and for whom. Reading Next comprises the work of five nationally known and respected educational researchers. Their paper was reviewed by the Adolescent Literacy Funders Forum in 2004. The report was targeted to funders, but has implications for researchers, policymakers, administrators, and teachers. The 15 recommendations to improve adolescent reading skills are divided into Instructional Improvements and Infrastructure Improvements.

Instructional Improvements:

1. Direct, explicit comprehension instruction
2. Effective instructional principles embedded in content
3. Motivation and self-directed learning
4. Text-based collaborative learning
5. Strategic tutoring
6. Diverse texts
7. Intensive writing
8. A technology component
9. Ongoing formative assessment of students

Infrastructure Improvements

10. Extended time for literacy
11. Professional development
12. Ongoing summative assessment of students and programs
13. Teacher teams
14. Leadership
15. Comprehensive and coordinated literacy program

Ideally, programs would implement all 15 elements, but the list can also be used to construct a blend of elements tailored to the population. The researchers provide descriptions of each of the elements and recommend the use of at the very least, three elements (professional development, ongoing formative assessment, and ongoing summative assessment) to create a non-negotiable foundation on which others elements can be layered.-They suggest that implementing multiple elements will produce not only an additive effect, but that the elements will interact to create a new synergy. The optimal mix has not been determined. The researchers ask that programs  implement and document the results of different mixes with different populations and demographics to ‘simultaneously improve achievement and develop the research base,’ (p. 23)  The authors, however, do not provide a direct plan for how the field can achieve this ambitious research and evaluation endeavor.
This report is invaluable in that it brings all of the relevant research on adolescent reading, previously a neglected field, into one document. 

mediaOther Resources

Not Your Average Reading Conference: Promising Practices in Effective Reading Interventions, Grade K-8 (MSAN Mini-Conference)
The mini-conference was held in Cambridge, MA, May 6 - 7, 2010. This link connects to the mini-conference's agenda and information for registration.

Adolescent Literacy (MSAN Mini-Conference)
On November 8 and 9, 2007, MSAN districts gathered to learn more about the challenges of and strategies for improving adolescent literacy. Keynote speakers were Dr. Yvette Jackson: Engaging the Mind for High Intellectual Performance: Pedagogy of Confidence and Dr. Michelle Porsche, Trauma and Literacy Project, Harvard University. In addition, MSAN colleagues discussed their different literacy coaching models, and their successes and challenges. This link connects to the mini-conference's notes.

Farmington Public Schools' ELL Wiki
Recommended Audience: School administrators and teachers at all levels.
This user-friendly site is designed for teachers to use to share best practice and strategies for meeting the needs of ELLs (English Language Learners) in the mainstream classroom. A navigation bar is provided with a myriad of topics pertinent to the instruction of ELLs listed such as:

Visit the wiki for a robust list of topics!

IES What Works Clearinghouse, Adolescent Literacy Intervention Reports: The WWC publishes intervention reports that evaluate research on adolescent literacy curricula and instructional strategies for students in grades 4-12. These curricula and strategies are intended to increase skills in alphabetics, reading fluency, comprehension, and general literacy achievement.”

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