Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Understanding the Effect of the North Carolina Read to Achieve Program on Student Outcomes
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Stallings, Trip Awardee: North Carolina State University
Program: Low-Cost, Short-Duration Evaluation of Education Interventions      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (8/1/2016-7/31/2018) Award Amount: $249,988
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305L160017

Co-Principal Investigators: Carolyn Guthrie (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction), Stephen Porter (North Carolina State University)

Partner Institutions: North Carolina State University's Friday Institute for Educational
Innovation and College of Education; North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

Purpose: Elementary grade retention is a growing policy option nationwide for ensuring that students are prepared for upper elementary school and beyond. This research project will study the causal impacts of North Carolina's Read to Achieve (RtA) Program on student reading and grade retention outcomes in grades four and five.

Project Activities: North Carolina State University will partner with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the key primary and secondary education decision-making entity in the state of North Carolina. The research team will investigate the impact on reading proficiency of North Carolina's RtA program by following students longitudinally for up to two years following third grade.

Products: The research team, in partnership with the state agency team member, will disseminate preliminary results to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction across the two years of the project, and the team has well-established access to other state agencies and stakeholders for annual presentations of formal research results. Papers will be presented at research and practitioner conferences, and will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journal articles.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Test scores will come from end-of-grade tests, which are administered in elementary schools statewide in North Carolina annually.

Population/Sample: The study will examine North Carolina traditional public school third grade students in 2013–14 through 2016–17 (over 100,000 per year in over 1,300 schools), with emphasis on students retained as a consequence of this new state policy.

Intervention: The North Carolina Read to Achieve (RtA) Program is a legislatively-mandated program that provides instructional interventions for students who do not demonstrate reading proficiency by the end of grade three. Initial identification is based on students scoring below a cut point on grade three End-of-Grade (EOG) examination; students who are not proficient in reading before the start of the next school year are retained.

Research Design and Methods: The evaluation team will collect data for this study from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. For the end-of-grade test, there is a clear cutscore, but retention is not an automatic result of initially scoring below the cutscore, and the probability of retention changes over a range of values below the cutscore. This is a fuzzy regression discontinuity design (RDD). The researchers have found no violations of the necessary assumptions of a fuzzy RDD in the data acquired thus far, and they will reassess the assumptions once the data for the latest school year are available.

Control Condition: Students who pass the end-of-grade test in third grade advance to fourth grade and receive no intervention. For the RDD, researchers will use students who score just above the pass/fail cutoff as the comparison group for those who score just below the cutoff and receive the intervention.

Key Measures: The two dependent variables are reading End-of-Grade scores and grade retention two years after initial retention. The end-of-grade test is vertically scaled and covers three topics: literature, reading for information, and language. The test result puts students on one of five ordinal levels, the lowest two of which are considered failing scores.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use both parametric and nonparametric fuzzy regression discontinuity analyses to estimate the effect of the RtA program on student outcomes, including future reading performance and grade retention.