Psychology :: Oregon study meets highest standards in US for research on reading programs

At least one in three children in this country has difficulty learning to read. Research shows that children’s aggressive behavior and reading difficulties during early elementary school years are risk factors for adolescent problem behaviors such as delinquency, academic failure, and substance use. Oregon Research Institute scientists recently received high marks for their work to reverse this trend.

An evaluation of a reading program for elementary students conducted by ORI scientists has been identified as the only study in the country that met the highest standards for research on programs for English language learners. The What Works Clearinghouse, in their review of research on effective interventions for English language learners, identified the reading program used in ORI’s Schools and Homes in Partnership (SHIP) project as having potentially positive effects on the reading achievement of English language learners.

“This is quite an honor for us,” notes ORI scientist Barbara Gunn, Ph.D., who directed the study. “Although there are many studies of the effectiveness of instructional practices, few are well-designed experimental evaluations and even fewer focus on effective approaches for teaching beginning readers.”

As teachers face growing requirements to improve academic outcomes for their students it is very important that researchers give them the information they need to make knowledgeable decisions on programs and approaches to use in their classrooms. This research was unique because it used the highest standards set for educational research and demonstrated that this kind of study can be done in schools across the state.

Gunn and colleagues tested the Reading Mastery program in a clinical trial conducted in Oregon with Hispanic and non-Hispanic students in early elementary school. All students received their usual reading instruction and half were randomly assigned to also receive supplemental instruction with the Reading Mastery program. Results showed that the program had significant effects on oral reading fluency, letter-word identification, word attack, and reading vocabulary. One year later, three of these factors still showed substantively important effects. Reading Mastery is a direct instruction program designed to provide systematic explicit instruction in English language reading. The program was developed at the University of Oregon.

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