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

Effects of Fourth Grade Reading Products

The fourth grade study included four reading products that were implemented in nine districts and 43 schools. The sample included 118 teachers and 2,265 students. The four products were Leapfrog (published by Leaptrack), Read 180 (published by Scholastic), Academy of Reading (published by Autoskill), and KnowledgeBox (published by Pearson Digital Learning).

Three of the four products provided tutorials, practice, and assessment geared to specific reading skills, one as a core reading curriculum and two as supplements to the core curriculum. The fourth product offered teachers access to hundreds of digital resources such as text passages, video clips, images, internet sites, and software modules from which teachers could choose to supplement their reading curriculum. The study estimated the average licensing fees for the products to be about $96 a student for the school year, with a range of $18 to $184.

Annual usage by students for the two fourth grade products that collected this measure in their databases was 7 hours for one product and 20 for the other. Assuming a typical reading instruction period was 90 minutes, students used products for less than 10 percent of reading instructional time (this estimate refers to the computer-based component of products). Treatment teachers also reported scheduling 6 hours of use of other products during the school year, and control teachers reported scheduling 7 hours of use of other products. Treatment teachers also reported spending 1 hour more a week teaching reading than control teachers (the increase was statistically significant).

Fourth grade reading products did not affect test scores by amounts that were statistically different from zero. Figure 3 shows measured effect sizes for the SAT-10 reading test, in effect size units.

Most school and classroom characteristics were not correlated with effects, but effects were larger when teachers reported higher levels of product use. As noted above, these relationships do not have a causal interpretation.