The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) is an approach to literacy instruction for students in elementary and middle schools with two primary goals: to improve students’ reading and writing, and to help children become lifelong, confident readers and writers who display agency and independence through work with teachers, collaboration with peers, and independent work.
Although the approach is used widely, it had never been subjected to a rigorous evaluation in which the reading achievement of students in schools implementing TCRWP was compared with those in non-TCRWP schools. Researchers at AIR conducted such a study in schools in New York City and in four districts in Greater Atlanta, Georgia. Specifically, we investigated the extent to which the literacy achievement of schools whose teachers were implementing the TCRWP approach differed from that of similar schools whose teachers were not. The study used a quasi-experimental design—a comparative interrupted time series (CITS) approach—to analyze changes in test scores following TCRWP implementation. Propensity score matching was used to identify a sample of comparison schools resembling the TCRWP schools on prior English language arts (ELA) achievement and key demographics. In addition to the examination of school-level literacy achievement, a small-scale implementation study was conducted in eight of the TCRWP schools in Georgia.
The sample for the CITS analysis included 51 TCRWP schools and 178 schools that had no affiliation with Teachers College. Some of the TCRWP schools had been implementing the program for as many as 10 years. Consistent with prior literature on professional development for teaching reading and writing, we find that there is no significant difference in ELA achievement for TCRWP and comparison schools in the first year after the program is introduced into a school. However, in subsequent years, the TCRWP schools show higher—and often statistically significantly higher—achievement relative to schools in the comparison group. The differences in test scores between TCRWP schools and comparison schools grow larger the longer the schools have been implementing the program.
AIR also analyzed qualitative data collected in a small subsample of the Georgia schools during the early years of their TCRWP implementation. Sources for the qualitative data included teacher surveys, teacher instructional logs, classroom observations, teacher focus groups, and principal interviews. Overall, these data revealed that teachers experienced some challenges as they learned a new approach to teaching reading and writing. However, they said they were determined to master the TCRWP instructional practices because they perceived that the program would make a positive change in their students’ literacy.