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Reading First Impact Study Final Report

NCEE 2009-4038
November 2008


The findings presented in this report are generally consistent with findings presented in the study's Interim Report, which found statistically significant impacts on instructional time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction promoted by the program (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension) in grades one and two, and which found no statistically significant impact on reading comprehension as measured by the SAT 10. In addition to data on the instructional and student achievement outcomes reported in the Interim Report, the final report also presents findings based upon information obtained during the study's third year of data collection: data from a measure of first grade students' decoding skill, and data from self-reported surveys of educational personnel in study schools.

Analyses of the impact of Reading First on aspects of program implementation, as reported by teachers and reading coaches, revealed that the program had statistically significant impacts on several domains. The information obtained from the Test of Silent Word Reading Fluency indicates that Reading First had a positive and statistically significant impact on first grade students' decoding skill.

The final report also explored a number of hypotheses to explain the pattern of observed impacts. Analyses that explored the association between the length of implementation of Reading First in the study schools and reading comprehension scores, as well as between the number of years students had been exposed to Reading First instruction and reading comprehension scores were inconclusive. No statistically significant variation across sites in the pattern of impacts was found. Correlational analyses suggest that there is a positive association between time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction promoted by the program and reading comprehension measured by the SAT 10, but these findings appear to be sensitive to model specification and the sample used to estimate the relationship.

The study finds, on average, that after several years of funding the Reading First program, it has a consistent positive effect on reading instruction yet no statistically significant impact on student reading comprehension. Findings based on exploratory analyses do not provide consistent or systematic insight into the pattern of observed impacts.