October 5, 2009

SoE review identifies most effective reading interventions

One-to-one tutoring by certified teachers and reading specialists is the “gold standard” among interventions for struggling readers, according to a comprehensive research review by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education.

As part of the review process, Robert Slavin, director of the center, and his research team looked at hundreds of existing studies evaluating the effectiveness of various interventions for struggling readers. A total of 96 studies met the review’s rigorous inclusion standards.

The types of interventions reviewed included one-to-one tutoring by teachers, one-to-one tutoring by paraprofessionals and volunteers, small group tutorials, classroom instructional process approaches and instructional technology.

“To ensure reading success for all children, it is important to understand which interventions have been proven effective for struggling readers,” Slavin said. “Educators need unbiased, meaningful data on the types of programs likely to help their low-achieving students.”

Findings of the review showed that one-to-one tutoring is highly effective in improving the reading performance of low-achieving students and that an emphasis on phonics greatly improves tutoring outcomes. Classroom instructional process programs, especially cooperative learning, were also found to have positive effects. In particular, the research showed that tutoring in first grade followed by cooperative learning throughout the elementary grades had the best long-term outcomes for low-achieving students.

On the contrary, traditional instructional technology programs, which use computer-assisted instruction software, were found to have little impact on struggling readers.

“Schools should focus on everyday classroom teaching and include various forms of cooperative learning and phonics-oriented programs,” Slavin said. “Not only does this benefit the children who are struggling to read but the whole class.”

The full report is available on the Best Evidence Encyclopedia Web site at www.bestevidence.org.

The School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education is a nonprofit center that received funding from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education. For more information on the center, go to http://education.jhu.edu/crre.