WWC review of this study

Teaching rural students with learning disabilities: A paraphrasing strategy to increase comprehension of main ideas.

Ellis, E. S., & Graves, A. W. (1990). Rural Special Education Quarterly, 10(2), 2–10. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ412221

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grades

Reviewed: May 2014

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Comprehension outcomes—Substantively important positive effects found
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Main Idea Test

Repeated Reading vs. Given a brief definition of a story’s main idea

After full dose of intervention

Grades 5-7;
16 students





Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 25%
    Male: 75%
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic

  • Rural
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The study was conducted with students from the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades from a small, rural middle school in the southeastern United States with a predominantly Black student population.

Study sample

Resource teachers identified 68 students classified as learning disabled with a minimum 15-point standard score discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability. The stu dents were screened to determine their decoding speed and accuracy and their skills at iden tifying main ideas when reading. From this initial list of 68 students, the authors then identified 47 students who could read third-grade material at 100 words per minute with 97% accuracy and who scored 60% or lower on comprehension tasks. Finally, the authors then selected 32 students who were randomly assigned to one of four groups: repeated reading, paraphrasing, repeated reading combined with paraphrasing, and comparison. The authors did not report how the 32 students were selected from the 47 identified students, and there was no attrition of students from the final study sample. This report focuses on findings for 16 students who were assigned to the repeated reading group (eight students) and the comparison group (eight students). Findings for the comparison between the repeated reading combined with para phrasing group and the comparison group (reported in Appendix D) are not included in the evidence rating but are presented in this WWC report for completeness.

Intervention Group

During two 4-day training sessions, students were taught how to use a repeated reading tech nique to find main ideas in reading. During the first 4 days of training, students were given a brief definition of main ideas. The repeated reading technique for finding main ideas was modeled by the teacher. Students practiced by first reading a story at a comfortable rate and then rereading the story several times, increasing speed with each reading. Main ideas were then selected from multiple-choice items. During the second 4 days of training, students used the same repeated reading approach but were asked to generate main ideas instead of selecting main ideas from multiple-choice items. In all cases, students were allowed 12 minutes to read the story and use the repeated reading procedure.

Comparison Group

Comparison students were given a brief definition of a story’s main idea. During the first 4 days, students read a story and answered main idea multiple-choice questions. During the second 4 days, students read a story and then generated main ideas.

Outcome descriptions

The study authors assessed reading comprehension by analyzing raw scores on a series of 10-item multiple-choice Main Idea Tests taken from Reading for Concepts, Book C. These are tests of the student’s ability to identify main ideas. Students were tested three times: after the first 4 days of the intervention (midtest), after the next 4 days of the intervention (posttest), and 14 days after completion of the intervention (follow-up). This review includes analysis of the Main Idea posttest and the follow-up test. The immediate posttest is used to determine the evidence rating, and the follow-up (reported in Appendix D) is not. The midtest was not reviewed by the WWC since it was administered half-way through the intervention. For a more detailed description of this outcome measure, see Appendix B.

Support for implementation

There was no information provided on support for implementation.


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