The study took place in six middle schools in an urban school district in Maryland. The student
populations in the schools ranged from 27% to 99% minority (median of 74.5%) and from
38% to 77% received free or reduced-price lunch (median of 57.5%).
This study is a quasi-experiment conducted in six urban middle schools during the 1989–90
academic year. Classes in the three treatment schools were matched with classes in the three
comparison schools on California Achievement Test (CAT) total reading pretest scores. Participants
were sixth-grade students. The study’s analytic sample included 455 students in 20
treatment classrooms and 768 students in 34 comparison classrooms.
In the intervention schools, Student Team Reading was implemented for one full academic
year and included two major components: (1) literature-based activities (including partner
reading, treasure hunts, word mastery, story retelling, story-related writing, and quizzes)
and (2) explicit instruction in comprehension strategies (such as identifying main ideas and
themes, drawing conclusions, making predictions, and understanding figurative language).
The program used a combination of teacher-directed instruction and cooperative learning in
heterogeneous teams. Teams were given rewards and recognition based on performance and
improvement of each team member.
Comparison group teachers used traditional methods and curriculum materials. In reading,
they often used basal series and focused instruction on isolated skills. Students read silently
and aloud (with one student reading while the rest of the class follows along). Most seatwork
time was spent on independent class work completing worksheet activities and practicing
reading skills; at times, students read silently; at other times, they read orally in turns. Students
typically did little to no extended writing that was related to reading activities.
For both the pretest and posttest, students took the CAT. Two CAT subtests were used in the
study: Reading Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension. The fifth-grade scores were used as
the pretest data; the sixth-grade scores were used as the posttest data. For a more detailed
description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.
Support for implementation
Intervention group teachers took part in three half-day training sessions that included how to
implement the classroom processes and the rationale behind the processes. During the training
session, trainers acted as the “teachers,” and the teachers acted as the students. Teachers
also received a detailed manual of the Student Team Reading program, curriculum materials,
and textbooks. During the school year, teachers also received coaching and took part in periodic
after-school meetings to provide feedback/discuss implementation questions. Teachers
were monitored by Student Team Reading staff four times a week over a six-week period.