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Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products: Findings from the First Student Cohort
NCEE 2007-4005
March 2007

Summary of Study Findings

The four grade levels essentially comprise substudies within the overall study, and findings are reported separately for each. The study's data collection approach was the same for the four substudies.

The implementation analysis focused on how products were used in classrooms, their extent of usage, issues that resulted from their use, and how their use affected classroom activities. Three implementation findings emerged consistently across the four substudies:

  1. Nearly All Teachers Received Training and Believed the Training Prepared Them to Use the Products. Vendors trained teachers in summer and early fall of 2004 on using products. Nearly all teachers attended trainings (94 percent to 98 percent, depending on the grade level). At the end of trainings, most teachers reported that they were confident that they were prepared to use the products with their classes. Generally, teachers reported a lower degree of confidence in what they had learned after they began using products in the classroom.

  2. Technical Difficulties Using Products Mostly Were Minor. Minor technical difficulties in using products, such as issues with students logging in, computers locking up, or hardware problems such as headphones not working, were fairly common. Most of the technical difficulties were easily corrected or worked around. When asked whether they would use the products again, nearly all teachers indicated that they would.

  3. When Products Were Being Used, Students Were More Likely to Engage in Individual Practice and Teachers Were More Likely to Facilitate Student Learning Rather Than Lecture. Data from classroom observations indicated that, compared to students in control classrooms where the same subject was taught without using the selected products, students using products were more likely to be observed working with academic content on their own and less likely to be listening to a lecture or participating in question-and-answer sessions. Treatment teachers were more likely than control teachers to be observed working with individual students to facilitate their learning (such as by pointing out key ideas or giving hints or suggestions on tackling the task students were working on) rather than leading whole-class activities.

Comparing student test scores for treatment teachers using study products and control teachers not using study products is the study's measure of product effectiveness. Effects on test scores were estimated using a statistical model that accounts for correlations of students within classrooms and classrooms within schools. The robustness of the results was assessed by examining findings using different methods of estimation and using district test scores as outcomes, and the patterns of findings were similar.