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The Enhanced Reading Opportunities Study: Early Impact and Implementation Findings

NCEE 2008-4015
June 2008

Executive Summary

This report presents early findings from the Enhanced Reading Opportunities (ERO) study — a demonstration and rigorous evaluation of two supplemental literacy programs that aim to improve the reading comprehension skills and school performance of struggling ninthgrade readers. The U.S. Department of Education's (ED) Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)1 is funding the implementation of these programs, and its Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is responsible for oversight of the evaluation. MDRC — a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization — is conducting the evaluation in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Survey Research Management (SRM).

The present report — the first of three — focuses on the first of two cohorts of ninthgrade students who will participate in the study and discusses the impact that the two interventions had on these students' reading comprehension skills through the end of their ninth-grade year. The report also describes the implementation of the programs during the first year of the study and provides an assessment of the overall fidelity with which the participating schools adhered to the program design specified by the developers. The key findings discussed in the report include the following:

  • On average, across the 34 participating high schools, the supplemental literacy programs improved student reading comprehension test scores.This impact estimate is statistically significant. Despite the improvement in reading comprehension, 76 percent of the students who enrolled in the ERO classes were still reading at two or more years below grade level at the end of ninth grade.
  • Although they are not statistically significant, the magnitudes of the impact estimates for each literacy intervention are the same as those for the full study sample.
  • Impacts on reading comprehension are larger for the 15 schools where (1) the ERO programs began within six weeks of the start of the school year and (2) implementation was classified as moderately or well aligned with the program model, compared with impacts for the 19 schools where at least one of these conditions was not met. The difference in impacts on reading comprehension between these two groups of schools is statistically significant. It is important to note, however, that these two factors did not necessarily cause the differences in impacts and that other factors may be also associated with differences in estimated impacts across schools.

The next report from the study — scheduled for 2008 — will provide findings for a second year of program implementation and a second cohort of ninth-grade students who are enrolled in the ERO classes. The ultimate goal of the two ERO programs is to improve students' academic performance during high school and to keep them on course toward graduation. With this in mind, the final report from the evaluation — scheduled for 2009 — will examine the impact of the ERO programs for both cohorts of students on their performance in core academic classes, their grade-to-grade promotion rates, and their performance on highstakes tests required by their states.


1 The implementation was initially funded by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), but this role was later transferred to OESE.