Comprehensive Literacy Program Evaluation

Mother and daughter reading together in library

In 2017, 11 states were awarded a combined $380 million in Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) grants to support schools and teachers in providing comprehensive literacy instruction and evidence-based practices, with a focus on serving disadvantaged schools. An additional 24 grants worth $380 million were awarded across the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years for the same purposes, under the Comprehensive Literacy State Development (CLSD) grant program.

We’re eager to dive deeper in the CLSD evaluation, where we can look into classrooms to see firsthand how teachers are incorporating comprehensive literacy into their instruction and how students are responding to it.

- Mike Garet, Vice President and Institute Fellow, AIR

AIR has led the national evaluation of the SRCL grant program and continues to lead the national evaluation of the CLSD grant program, measuring the extent to which each program has met its stated goals. The SRCL evaluation report, prepared by AIR under contract to the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, focuses on program implementation, measuring whether funds reached disadvantaged schools, whether grant recipients purchased and used evidence-based curricula, and how teachers in funded schools engaged with the features of comprehensive literacy instruction.

Key findings from the study include: 

  • Uneven targeting of resources to disadvantaged schools suggests that SRCL’s funding objectives were not realized in every state, though limited data availability and variation in states’ definitions of disadvantage make it difficult to draw firm conclusions.
  • Literacy programs supported by rigorous research evidence were not a focus, according to independent reviews of the quality of the research; few districts used SRCL funds to purchase such programs and few teachers in SRCL schools reported using such programs.
  • The kinds of comprehensive literacy instruction consistent with research and emphasized by SRCL were less widely used by teachers than intended.

The evaluation of CLSD is in progress and will also include a randomized trial examining the impact of CLSD funds on student achievement and teacher practices in a set of participating districts.

AIR’s partners on the project include: (1) NORC at the University of Chicago, which administered surveys to teachers, school leaders, and district officials; (2) Instructional Research Group (IRG), which reviewed the evidence base for several curricula and consulted on the interpretation of classroom observations; (3) and Abt Global, which conducted interviews with state grant administrators and reviewed states’ grant applications.

Eleanor Fulbeck Headshot
Senior Director
Kerstin Le Floch
Managing Researcher
Michael Garet
Vice President and Institute Fellow