To make dramatic improvements in literacy, struggling students need reading help earlier, often and longer – but not necessarily during summer school or after-school programs, according to a study released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Called "Lessons in Reading Reform: Finding What Works," the PPIC report got complete access to student records to measure what effect, if any, improvement strategies enacted by the San Diego Unified School District were having. Some of the findings from the study, which tracked district reforms made from 2000 to 2005, include:
- Middle school students who took extended-length English classes improved by 1.6 percentile points and 5.5 percentile points, respectively, per year.
- A longer school year at elementary schools with the weakest reading scores could result in a child improving by three percentile points over four years.
- The younger the student, the more effective the reading help. High school students who took longer English classes actually scored worse in reading than without the extra intervention.
- Summer session and supervised reading periods before or after school did not significantly affect student achievement.
Julian Betts, co-author of the study and professor of economics at the University of California San Diego, said patience and good planning were key to whether reforms were effective.
It is crucial that reading reforms be comprehensive and well-articulated across grades, not scattershot. Most important, reformers need patience. We found that several elements, most notably the peer coaching system, had zero effect in the first year of the program, but appeared to contribute to reading gains later on.
Before allowing your teen to talk you out of after-school study hall or summer school for next year, you might want to delve into the report yourself. Take a look at it below. I would love to hear your thoughts about it. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.