There is substantial interest in helping the more than 70 percent of students who arrive in high school with reading skills that are below “proficient” on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The Enhanced Reading Opportunities (ERO) demonstration evaluated two supplemental literacy programs—Reading Apprenticeship Academic Literacy (RAAL) and Xtreme Reading—targeted to ninth grade students whose reading skills were at least two years below grade level.
Over two years, about 6,000 eligible students in 34 high schools from 10 districts were randomly assigned to enroll in the year-long ERO class or remain in a regularly scheduled elective class (non-ERO group). At the end of 9th grade, both groups were assessed using a standardized, nationally normed reading test, and participated in surveys about their reading activities and behaviors. School records were used to examine the effect of the literacy programs on academic performance during the program year (9th grade) and a year afterwards.
The U.S. Department of Education funded the implementation and evaluation of these programs; AIR conducted the evaluation in partnership with MDRC and Survey Research Management.
- On average, across the 34 participating high schools, the supplemental literacy programs significantly improved student reading comprehension test scores.
- Impacts on reading comprehension are larger for the 15 schools where (1) the ERO programs began within six weeks of the start of the school year and (2) implementation was classified as moderately or well aligned with the program model, compared with impacts for the 19 schools where at least one of these conditions was not met.
- Seventy-seven percent of the ERO students were still reading at two or more years below grade level at the end of ninth grade. The RAAL intervention had a positive and statistically significant impact on reading comprehension test scores and the other, Xtreme Reading, had a positive but not significant impact.
- The impact of the ERO programs in the second year is not statistically different from their impact in the first year of implementation.
- The implementation fidelity of the ERO programs was more highly rated in the second year of the study than in the first year.
- During the 9th grade, the ERO program also had a positive impact on students’ academic performance in core subject areas, including their grades and credit accumulation. Students in the ERO group scored higher on their states’ English/Language Arts and mathematics assessment than did those in the non-ERO group.
- The ERO program effects did not continue beyond the program year. While there were statistically significant and positive impacts on students’ GPA, credit accumulation and state test scores in 9th grade, the impacts were not significant the following school year.