Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
An evaluation completed by Abt Associates for the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences found that while the federal Reading First Program increased instructional time on key components of reading instruction promoted by the program in Reading First funded schools, the impact on student reading comprehension test scores was not statistically significant. These findings are consistent with the findings presented in the study's Interim Report released in May 2008. For this Final Report, the study added several new measures of program implementation and a measure of first grade students' decoding skills. Impacts on these new measures were generally statistically significant.
The Reading First Program, established under The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, is a major federal reading initiative meant to address a persistent education problem — large numbers of the nation's children do not develop the basic reading skills necessary to be successful in school. Reading First provides substantial resources at both the state and local levels to help ensure that all children can read at or above grade level by the end of third grade by improving the quality of reading instruction — and thereby improve the reading skills and achievement of children in the primary grades. The Program promotes instructional practices that have been validated by scientific research.
The Reading First Impact Study is a congressionally mandated evaluation of the Program designed to answer the following questions:
- What is the impact of Reading First on classroom instruction?
- What is the impact of Reading First on student reading achievement?
- What is the relationship between the degree of implementation of scientifically based reading instruction and student reading achievement?
Key findings of the study are that:
The Reading First Impact Study (RFIS) employed a regression discontinuity design that capitalized on the systematic process used by a number of school districts to allocate their Reading First funds. A regression discontinuity design is the strongest quasi-experimental method that exists for estimating program impacts.
The study sample included 248 schools (125 Reading First, 123 Non-Reading First) in 18 sites (17 districts and one statewide program) in 13 states; more than 30,000 1st through 3rd grade students were assessed on each of four occasions; over 1,300 1st and 2nd grade classrooms were observed on five occasions.
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.