American children often struggle with comprehending the more complex texts used in elementary school science and social studies classes.Three children reading books This is especially true of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act calls for closing the gap between high and low achievers through instructional approaches shown to be effective by scientifically based research. Yet, little is known about the effectiveness of different approaches for teaching reading comprehension strategies, making it difficult for state and local educators to decide how to best use Title I funds to improve educational outcomes.

In response to this problem, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences contracted with Mathematica Policy Research and its subcontractors to conduct a rigorous evaluation of reading comprehension curricula. This five-year, scientifically based study focuses on four reading comprehension curricula aimed at fifth graders. Mathematica’s subcontractors for the study include RMC Research Corporation, RG Research Group, the Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Utah. The research team collected data through classroom observations, teacher surveys, and school records abstraction, as well as by administering standardized tests to students. Data analyses address critical questions on the effectiveness of reading comprehension curricula. Ultimately, the study findings could substantially influence reading instruction policy and practice.

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What is the impact of reading comprehension curricula on reading comprehension, and how do impacts of individual curricula compare to one another?

How are student, teacher, and school characteristics related to effects of the curricula?

Which instructional practices are related to effects of the curricula?

What is the impact of the curricula on students one year after the end of the intervention implementation?

Are impacts larger after schools and teachers have had one year of experience with the curricula?


Select reading comprehension approaches

Conduct pilot study

Identify and recruit districts and schools

Conduct random assignment of schools

Train teachers

Implement reading comprehension approaches

Collect, analyze, and report data