The Reading First Ohio (RFO) initiative was designed to implement scientifically based research on best practices in literacy instruction to ensure that all Ohio children are able to read by the end of third grade. The program model included targeted professional development in scientifically based reading research practices, high-quality instructional materials, and the use of assessment to improve instruction. With our partner Westat, the American Institutes for Research evaluation team designed an evaluation of this statewide initiative that monitored program implementation and program effectiveness.
To track program implementation, the evaluation drew on three primary sources of data: classroom observations; an online teacher survey; and interviews with principals, teachers, and literacy specialists conducted during annual site visits to both RFO and comparison schools. The evaluation of program impact examined improvement in student achievement over time with respect to changes in reading proficiency relative to state performance standards and the reading performance of students in a matched comparison sample of similar schools that did not receive RFO funding.
The study found high levels of implementation of the RFO program in RFO schools across the state. By the end of the six-year grant, practices associated with the RFO program were being implemented in comparison schools as well. While the evaluation found that reading performance for RFO students was stronger at the end of the grant period than when the program started, the comparison of student achievement from RFO schools and non-RFO schools did not reveal any statistically significant difference.