Skip Navigation
Print Evaluations

Academic Language Impact Evaluation

Contract Information

Current Status:



September 2015 – December 2022



Contract Number:



Abt Associates
The Florida Center for Reading Research


Academic language skills are critical supports for reading and understanding for all students, particularly for English Learners (ELs) and disadvantaged native English speakers whose achievement typically lags behind their peers. For example, nationally fourth grade ELs continue to score significantly lower on reading and math assessments compared to their non-EL counterparts. Because districts and policymakers need information about what works to close these gaps, this evaluation examined whether a promising supplemental academic language program was effective when implemented at a large scale. The program included 12 two-week teaching units that introduced 5 to 6 high-frequency academic vocabulary words used across English language arts, math, science, and social studies. Each unit provided students with repeated, authentic opportunities to practice using academic language in the classroom.

  • What is the impact of the academic language program on student achievement?
  • What is the impact of the academic language program on classroom instruction?
  • Is there variation in the implementation or impact of the program? What implementation and sample characteristics are associated with variation in impacts?

The study team recruited 70 schools and randomly assigned them to either receive the program's training and materials or continue their instruction as usual. Program schools were offered summer training and ongoing support to implement the academic language program with their fourth and fifth grade teachers and students during the 2017–18 school year.

Data collection included study-administered assessments of students' academic language skills and reading comprehension, classroom observations to document the instructional contrast between teachers and classrooms that received the program training and those that did not, and administrative records to document student English proficiency and progress.

A report, titled The Effects of an Academic Language Program on Student Reading Outcomes, was released in August 2022.

A restricted-use file containing de-identified data is available for the purposes of replicating study findings and conducting secondary analyses.

  • The program did not affect the academic language skills or reading performance of students overall.
  • Despite the program's attention to instruction relevant to the specific learning needs of English learners and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the program had no effect on the language or reading performance of either group.
  • The training and support provided to teachers during the year did not change most aspects of instruction that the program targeted, which might explain the lack of effects on student outcomes.