The study took place in ten middle schools in four districts in Louisiana during the 2010–11 school year. Participating schools were in a mix of rural, urban, and suburban settings. All schools were Title I schools and had sufficient numbers of struggling readers in participating grades to support the study. The Striving Readers grant program funded the study.
The study authors randomly assigned sixth- to eighth-grade students in study schools who met the eligibility criteria for the study to the intervention group or to the comparison group. The random assignment was conducted separately within each grade and school. The authors conducted an additional round of random assignment for a group of eligible students who had newly enrolled in study schools. Overall, the study randomly assigned 720 students to the intervention group and 717 students to the comparison group. The study examined the GRADE comprehension outcome for 485 intervention and 498 comparison students and the iLEAP ELA general literacy achievement outcome for 548 intervention and 554 comparison students. For both outcome measures, attrition was within the acceptable threshold for the review: the overall attrition rate was between 23% and 32%, and the differential attrition rate was between 1 and 2 percentage points. Sixth- to eighth-grade students in study schools who performed below proficiency levels on the Integrated Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (iLEAP) during the previous school year were eligible for the study. There were ten intervention teachers; one in each school.
The students subject to random assignment were largely split between sixth (48%) and seventh (47%) grades, with a small number of students in eighth grade. Seventy-one percent of students were Black, 24% were White, and the remainder were of other races. Forty-three percent of the sample was female, 15% of students were classified as requiring special education, 4% had limited English proficiency status, and 88% were eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program.
Students in the intervention group received the Passport Reading Journeys program over the course of the 2010–11 school year. This supplemental intervention was implemented over 15 two-week blocks. Teachers provided 50-minute lessons in small classes, aiming to complete 15 expeditions (containing ten lessons each) during the school year. Students worked with teachers on literacy four days a week, and on the fifth day they played interactive online literacy games. On average, teachers completed 11.4 expeditions. Nine of the ten teachers taught class periods that lasted approximately 45 to 50 minutes. The average student-to-teacher ratio was 13:1.
Students in the comparison condition received standard ELA instruction and an elective course that provided no additional literacy instruction (such as band, foreign languages, art, physical education, and supplemental math). The standard ELA instruction was available to both the intervention and comparison groups.
Support for implementation
Teachers in the intervention group had at least three years of demonstrated effective classroom instruction and were trained in the Passport Reading Journeys curriculum. The professional development and support included a launch training, online product training, coursework on adolescent literacy, and ongoing consultation. Trained experts from the developer visited each school to observe how it was implementing the intervention, with the number of visits determined by the needs of the teachers and the contract between each school district and Cambium. The launch training, the online product training, and the online support are part of the program package included in the basic program cost. The coursework, professional development training, and coaching was conducted at additional cost to school districts or schools. Throughout the school year, teachers also received support from principals and project staff from the Louisiana Department of Education. The authors described that overall, the intervention was implemented at a medium to high level of adequacy across the study schools.