Policy & Assessment

Read to Achieve Program Defies Progress

A recent analysis by researchers at North Carolina State University found no state-level impacts for its "Read to Achieve" (RtA) Initiative. The program's goal was to support on-grade reading mastery for all grade 3 students. Support included an optional reading camp for students between grades 3 and 4 and supplemental tutoring and extra reading help during the following school year.

RtA was begun in 2012 as a legislated effort to increase reading achievement among the youngest students in North Carolina. Implementation of the extra support occurred at the school district level but was funded primarily by the state. Five years in, however, the test scores have remained "relatively flat" in grade 4 and have even "slightly" declined in grade 3.

The project examined the outcomes for students in traditional public schools who first experienced the RtA initiative as grade 3 students during 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. Any improvements in end-of-grade reading scores for students who had the extra support across the state were "not statistically different" from improvements in those scores by students who received no RtA services. Likewise, there was no effect on reading scores for sub-groups of students, such as those from economically disadvantaged families. Not even participation in reading camps moved the needle for those students who attended.

In their report on the findings, the researchers suggested that a big portion of the "general lack of overall progress" might have to do with gaps in the policy and implementation "on the ground." For example, policy assumes that there's statewide availability of high-quality reading teachers for every district, which may not be true.

The analysis suggested that the state invest in whatever's needed for "implementation fidelity"; identify local level programs that are working and scale those up; and shift the project from an emphasis on grade 3 to an emphasis on all grades up to and including grade 3.

The project was undertaken by researchers in the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation in the university's College of Education. The work was funded by the Institute for Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education.

The report of findings is openly available on the Friday Institute's website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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