The study was conducted in 12 schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District
(SCUSD), a large urban district in northern California.
Under California’s interpretation of Reading First, all 59 elementary schools in SCUSD were
required to implement one of two models of reading instruction, Success for All (SFA)® or
Open Court Reading©. In the fall of 1997, four schools implemented SFA®. A matched sample
of Open Court Reading© schools were created by rank-ordering SCUSD schools by poverty
level (measured by the percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals and percent
of students on Aid to Families with Dependent Children), and selecting two comparison
schools for each SFA® school—those ranked just above and just below each SFA® school.
The study included two cohorts of students: students in Cohort 1 began using the reading
programs in grade 2, while students in Cohort 2 began in grade 3. A total of 936 students in
Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 participated in the study, including students continually enrolled at
study schools from fall 1997 to spring 1999 who completed all study tests and did not repeat
a grade. The WWC based its effectiveness rating on findings from 434 Cohort 1 students who
participated in the study; 292 in the Open Court Reading© group and 142 in the comparison
group—these students were followed from second to third grade. Results for the Cohort 2 students
are not included in this report because, based on information obtained from the authors,
that sample of students was not equivalent on key characteristics at baseline.
Students in the intervention group received reading instruction using Open Court Reading©, a
systematic approach to teaching alphabetics, print knowledge, and phonemic awareness. For
this study, the district used the 1996 version of the curricula, Open Court Collections for Young
Scholars. Two hours of daily whole-class reading instruction was followed by 30 minutes of
small-group instruction and/or independent work. All study students received a condensed
selection of instructional content to “catch-up” students to Open Court Reading© content that
they had not received in prior years (since they began using the curriculum in either second or
Students in the comparison group received reading instruction through SFA®. Students were
put into homogeneous groups, across classrooms and grades, based on reading skills. They
received 90 minutes of reading instruction daily, outside of their homerooms. SFA® also prescribes
additional writing instruction outside of these groups. The SFA® training consultants
monitored implementation fidelity and observed additional writing instruction in all study schools
during both study years. The authors noted that teachers in SFA® schools frequently included
additional spelling and grammar, along with writing instruction, outside of the 90-minute reading
block. A core reading curriculum is only prescribed in grades K–1; in grades 2–6, the schools
can choose their own reading curricula. The authors state that the materials and guidelines for
instruction (Reading Roots for grade 1, and Reading Wings for grades 2–4), as well as the professional
development, tutoring, and the SFA® school facilitator and regional consultant oversight
procedures, all followed those outlined by the developers of the curriculum.
The outcome measure was the Reading subtest from the SAT-9, administered in both spring
1998 and spring 1999. The authors converted all measures to normal curve equivalent scores.
For a more detailed description of this outcome measure, see Appendix B. The Language
subtest from the SAT-9 was reported by the authors; however, this outcome measure is not
included in this report because it is not an eligible outcome under the Beginning Reading
evidence review protocol. The intermediate findings (after 1 year of implementation) for second
graders are reported in Appendix D.1.
Support for implementation
At Open Court Reading© schools, teachers received 4 days of basic grade-level training in
year 1, followed by 4 days of advanced grade-level training in year 2. Each Open Court Reading©
school received a reading coach (either full-time or part-time, depending on school size).
Curriculum experts met monthly with reading coaches and administrators to refine instruction
and supervision and to solve problems. Reading coaches collected implementation information
but were prohibited from sharing the information with the study authors; the district-level
reading coordinator indicated that although some schools had implementation problems at the
beginning of the study, these were resolved by the second study year.
At SFA® schools, training and technical assistance was provided by SFA® consultants from a
regional SFA® office. The SFA® consultants assessed implementation fidelity and rated it as a
typical level of implementation when compared with national implementation averages.