WWC review of this study

Main Idea Identification with Students with Mild Intellectual Disabilities and Specific Learning Disabilities: A Comparison of Explicit and Basal Instructional Approaches [Reading intervention (Miller et al. (2011)) vs. business as usual]

Miller, C. Alan; Darch, Craig B.; Flores, Margaret M.; Shippen, Margaret E.; Hinton, Vanessa (2011). Journal of Direct Instruction, v11 p15-29. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ943049

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grades

Reviewed: November 2021

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Reading Comprehension outcomes—Substantively important positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Curriculum-based assessment-maintenance measure (Miller et al., 2011)

Reading intervention (Miller et al. (2011)) vs. Other intervention

2 Weeks

Full sample;
38 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 26%
    Male: 74%

  • Rural
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The study was implemented in a middle school and elementary school in a rural area of the southeastern United States. All students received instruction in special education classes as a supplement to language arts in general education classrooms. The intervention was implemented in a small-group resource room setting.

Study sample

The students in the sample either had mild intellectual disabilities (MID) or specific learning disabilities (SLD). The students in the sample were in grades three through seven. Seventy-six percent were African American and the remainder were White. Seventy-four percent of students in the sample were male.

Intervention Group

The study examined the effectiveness of a reading intervention for students struggling with reading. The students' special education teachers implemented the intervention (explicit strategy instruction) in a small group resource room setting over the course of 3 weeks. Each week, the sessions took place 4 days per week for approximately 45 minutes per session. After reviewing the previous lesson, teachers taught intervention group students to identify the main ideas of paragraphs and passages by applying rule-based statements and multi-step procedures to texts from the McGraw-Hill Reading series. For example, one rule used was, “When attempting to identify the main idea of a paragraph, pay close attention to the topic sentence (i.e., the first sentence) and the concluding sentence (i.e., the last sentence) of the paragraph.” Then, teachers demonstrated and led students in the implementation of this rule or strategy before allowing them to practice the strategy independently, with teacher feedback. Students also participated in whole group language arts instruction in general education classrooms.

Comparison Group

The students' special education teachers implemented the comparison condition (the basal program) in a small-group resource room setting over the course of 3 weeks. Each week, the sessions took place 4 days per week for approximately 45 minutes per session. Using the same McGraw-Hill Reading series used in the intervention group, teachers used strategies such as connecting to participants’ prior knowledge of the story’s content. Next, teachers asked students to read the text either taking turns or silently. Then, teachers engaged in an activity to assess whether students understood the main idea of the passage. Students also participated in whole-group language arts instruction in general education classrooms.

Support for implementation

Teachers in the study taught both the intervention and comparison conditions. Before the study began, these teachers participated in two 4-hour training sessions. One session focused on the intervention condition and the other session focused on the comparison condition. Each teacher practiced implementing both conditions and the researcher provided coaching and feedback on their demonstrations.


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