WWC review of this study

Reading Interventions with Varying Instructional Emphases for Fourth Graders with Reading Difficulties [Reading intervention with word study or comprehension emphasis vs. business as usual]

Wanzek, Jeanne; Roberts, Greg (2012). Learning Disability Quarterly, v35 n2 p90-101. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1004796

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: November 2021

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Word and pseudoword reading outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Word Attack Subtest: Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement III

Reading intervention 3 (Wanzek & Roberts (2012)) vs. Business as usual

2 Weeks

Comprehension or word study intervention based on the student’s profile vs. Comparison;
42 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • 67% English language learners

  • Female: 45%
    Male: 55%
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    South, West
  • Race
    Other or unknown
  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic or Latino    


The study took place in five schools in a school district in the southeastern United States that served many low socio-economic status and ethnically and culturally diverse students.

Study sample

Demographic characteristics for the intervention condition are as follows: 47.4% female; 78.9% Hispanic and 15.8% White; 10.5% were identified as having a specific learning disability; 57.9% were classified as having limited English proficiency; and 89.5% qualified for free/reduced-price lunch. Demographic characteristics for the comparison condition are as follows: 43.5% female; 100% Hispanic; 13.0% were identified as having a specific learning disability; 74.0% were classified as having limited English proficiency; and 100% qualified for free/reduced-price lunch.

Intervention Group

The study examined the effectiveness of a reading intervention for students struggling with reading. Students received either the comprehension emphasis intervention or the word study emphasis intervention depending on their area of deficit identified through pretesting. The interventions were delivered by a trained teacher to small groups of 2-4 students. Intervention sessions met daily for 30 minutes for 28 weeks. The comprehension emphasis intervention teacher utilized the Collaborative Strategic Reading program (Klinger, Vaughn, Dimino, Schumm, & Bryant, 2001). Students received instruction in reading comprehension strategies that involved four steps: preview, click and chunk, get the gist, and wrap up. Students engaged in text reading for 8-10 minutes and vocabulary instruction for 3-4 minutes. Students kept a reading log of their strategy use. The word study intervention teacher utilized the Wilson Reading System, 3rd Edition (Wilson, 2002). Students received instruction in word recognition that involved 12 steps. Steps 1 and 2 focused on phoneme segmentation and blending of sounds. Step 3 focused on multisyllabic words and breaking words into syllables. Steps 4 to 6 focused on vowel-consonant-e syllables, open syllables, suffixes, and consonant-le syllables. Steps 7 to 12 focused on advanced word recognition skills. Students practiced word reading, spelling, sentence reading and writing, and reading connected text on a daily basis.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison condition received school-provided supplemental reading instruction in small groups of 2-3 students. Teachers reported that the instruction consisted of practicing test-taking skills specific to reading passages and answering questions (e.g., decoding unknown words, using context clues to determine the meaning of words, identifying main ideas, and locating key information to answer comprehension questions).

Support for implementation

Intervention teachers were observed weekly and provided with feedback and were rated on a fidelity checklist monthly. Intervention teachers met weekly as a group.


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