The study took place in six public high schools in four school districts in Illinois during the 2010–11 school year. All of the schools were Title I schools that had not made, or were at risk of not making, adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. The Striving Readers grant from the U.S. Department of Education funded the study.
The study authors identified 855 incoming ninth-grade students in the six participating high schools who met the eligibility criteria for the study. Each eligible student was matched to another similar eligible student, forming a pair. The authors then randomly assigned one student in each pair to receive the intervention and the other student to the comparison group so that 427 students were assigned to the intervention group and 428 students were assigned to the comparison group. The study examined the GMRT comprehension outcome for 232 intervention and 216 comparison students and the EXPLORE general literacy achievement outcome for 264 intervention and 250 comparison students. For both outcome measures, the sample loss after random assignment (attrition) was within the acceptable threshold for the review: the overall attrition rate was between 40% and 48%, and the differential attrition rate was between 3 and 4 percentage points. To be eligible for the study, ninth-grade students had to have taken the Grade 8 EXPLORE test (ACT, 2011) and scored at the bottom two quartiles, and could not have an individualized education plan. Six teachers, one in each of the six schools, provided the intervention to the students assigned to the intervention group.
Of the students subject to random assignment, 58% were African-American, 5% were Hispanic, 30% were White, 43% were female, 85% were eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program, and 18% were receiving special education services.
Students in the intervention group received the Passport Reading Journeys program over the course of the 2010–11 school year. This supplemental intervention was offered during an elective period and involved daily lessons in reading skills related to science or social studies. The lessons were 50 minutes in duration (or 45 minutes when schools have 90-minute block scheduling). The lessons were organized into 14 ten-lesson expedition sequences, each two weeks long. Students also used two online tools available as part of Passport Reading Journeys: VocabJourney, a computer application for learning vocabulary words and improving comprehension skills at students’ own pace, and ReadingScape, a library of books and texts students could use to practice their reading skills independently.
Students assigned to the comparison condition received the instruction in English language arts (ELA) that was already available in their schools and elective classes that did not provide any supplemental literacy instruction. The ELA instruction was available to both the intervention and comparison groups.
Support for implementation
Cambium Learning Group, the developer of the intervention, provided professional development and support to the six teachers delivering the intervention. This professional development and support included a launch training, online product training, coursework on adolescent literacy, and ongoing consultation. The launch training consisted of two eight-hour sessions that instructed teachers on how to deliver the intervention with fidelity. The online training modules provided instruction in a self-paced, interactive environment and enabled teachers to search, annotate, and bookmark information they found valuable. Cambium also provided one-on-one support to teachers delivering the intervention through trained experts who visited each school to observe how the intervention was being implemented. The number of visits was determined by the needs of the teachers and the contract between each school district and Cambium. The launch training, the online product training, and the online support are included in the cost of the standard program package. The coursework, ongoing consultation, and coaching was conducted at additional cost to school districts or schools.