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Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products

NCEE 2009-4041
February 2009

Software Products

The products included in the second year are a subset of the products used in the first year. Some products that had been studied in the first year had been implemented in too few schools for individual effects to be reported on them in the second year. For two products that were just below the threshold needed for reasonable sample sizes, the study added districts and schools in the second year.

The second-year study included four reading software products for first grade, Destination Reading (Riverdeep 2008), the Waterford Early Reading Program (Pearson School 2008), Headsprout (Headsprout 2008), and Plato Focus (Plato Learning Corporation 2008). Three of the four products provided supplemental instruction and Plato Focus was used as the core reading curriculum. The second-year study also included two reading products for fourth grade, LeapTrack (LeapFrog Schoolhouse 2008) and Academy of Reading (Autoskill International 2008). These products supplemented the core reading curriculum with tutorials, practice, and assessment geared to specific reading skills.

For math, the second-year study included two math products for sixth grade, Larson Pre-Algebra (Houghton-Mifflin 2008) and Achieve Now (Plato Learning 2008). The products supplemented the core math curriculum with provided tutorial and practice opportunities and assessed student skills. The study included two algebra I products: Cognitive Tutor Algebra I (Carnegie Learning 2008) and Larson Algebra I (Houghton-Mifflin 2008). The Larson product supplemented algebra I instruction and the Cognitive Tutor product was the core algebra I curriculum. Students at a variety of high school grade levels can take algebra I, and many middle schools also teach algebra I. In the study, 9 percent of students were in eighth grade, 87 percent were in ninth grade, and 4 percent were in grades 10, 11, or 12.

Standardized Tests the Study Used to Measure Achievement Outcomes

First grade reading test: The version-9 reading battery of the Stanford Achievement Test (Pearson 1996a).

Fourth grade reading test: The version-10 reading battery of the Stanford Achievement Test (Pearson 2003b).

Sixth grade math test: The version-10 math battery of the Stanford Achievement Test (Pearson 2003c).

Algebra test: The Educational Testing Service (ETS) End-of-Course Algebra Assessment (Educational Testing Service 1997).

The reading and math products supplemented the core curriculum or, as was the case for Cognitive Tutor, were the core curriculum. Products generally were for whole classes and were not implemented only to remediate skills for students who were lagging.