The study took place in 23 adult literacy programs.
The initial sample consisted of 62 learners. There were 198 learners across all four studies. These learners could read between the 2nd and 6th grade levels. About 55 percent of learners were African American, 28 percent were Hispanic, 12 percent were Asian, and 6 percent were White. Sixty-seven percent were female. Fifty-six percent were English language learners, and the rest were native English speakers. Twenty-nine percent of learners repeated at least one grade of school; 15 percent attended special education classes while in school; and 49 percent reported graduating from high school.
Extensive Reading (ER) is extended reading practice using an extensive library of high interest/low vocabulary books. Learners engaged in sustained silent reading—an activity in which the teacher read aloud, and the learner followed along, with a discussion afterward about the books everyone was reading. During each class, time was allocated as follows: two blocks of silent sustained reading of 40 minutes each, 15 minutes of teacher read-aloud activities, 10 minutes of book discussion, and a 5-minute break.
The comparison group used a popular existing adult literacy curriculum. Teachers were advised to focus on teaching prime frequency words, W-H questions (who, what, when, where, why how), spelling, oral reading, journal writing, categorization of words, sentence structure, and mechanics of punctuation. Books were not used, but teachers could use excerpts based on learners’ interest. Instruction was provided for two hours per class, four times a week, for 12 and a half weeks. The curriculum did not allocate specific amounts of time for each topic. Learners attending all classes received 100 hours of instruction.
Support for implementation
The teachers were hired specifically for the study. They had teaching backgrounds, but none had experience with the approaches in the SRA/McGraw Hill Direct Instruction Corrective Reading program. Each teacher received one week of training in adult literacy awareness and sensitivity, along with training on each approach. Once classes were in session, coaches observed each teacher five times during the year. Teachers received additional training if necessary.