Contractors: MDRC, AIR
The Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) Program (funded at $88 million FY 2009), authorized since 2000 by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, awards discretionary grants to school districts to support the implementation of SLCs and activities to improve student academic achievement in large public high schools. Because, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, over 70 percent of students nationally arrive in high school with reading skills that are below proficient, in 2005 the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education awarded SLC grants to 10 LEAs and 34 of their high schools for a demonstration and rigorous evaluation of supplemental literacy interventions for striving ninth grade readers.
This evaluation is testing two supplemental, year-long literacy programs for ninth graders identified as two years or more behind grade level in reading. These programs were selected by a national panel of experts from among those submitted by 17 curriculum developers in a competition conducted under the demonstration. The evaluation focuses on the following questions:
Within each of the 10 districts, participating high schools were randomly assigned so that a total of 17 implemented each of the two interventions—Reading Apprenticeship [WestEd] and Xtreme Reading [University of Kansas]—within their freshman SLCs. At each high school, two cohorts of eligible, entering ninth-grade students were randomly assigned to participate in either the supplemental literacy program or an elective of their choosing during the year. Across the two cohorts, approximately 5,000 students (about 2,500 9th graders in 2005–06 and in 2006–07) are involved in the study. The analysis relies on evaluator-administered surveys and literacy assessments conducted both before and at the end of the 9th grade program, as well as school records data.
Cost/Duration: $6,498,159 over 6 years (September 2004–September 2010)
The study is completed; a final report was released in July 2010 (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104021/index.asp).
Together, the ERO programs improved students' reading comprehension skills during the 9th grade, corresponding to an improvement from the 23rd to the 25th percentile. However, 77 percent of students assigned to the ERO class were still reading 2 or more years behind grade level at the end of the year.