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Advancing Knowledge in Teaching Reading and Math

Research builds knowledge to empower educators about what works. SEDL conducts rigorous research studies and translates the findings to improve teaching and learning in areas such as reading and mathematics. The results provide the guidance educators need to ensure they use programs and practices that deliver.

Adopting a core reading or math curriculum is a high-stakes decision. School districts need to know they are investing tight funds in programs that work. SEDL conducts randomized controlled trials (RCTs), the gold standard in research, to provide rigorous evidence of the programs that promote student learning.

SRA Imagine It! and Everyday Mathematics®

Researchers at SEDL and University of Wisconsin- Madison are conducting a large-scale effectiveness study of two widely used McGraw-Hill programs: SRA Imagine It! Today's Open Court and Everyday Mathematics®. The national study is evaluating how the programs affect teacher practices and student achievement over 3 school years. Currently, 20 schools are participating, with 40 more set to join in 2012.

Our researchers have partnered with a range of experts to develop an innovative study design that aligns the two RCTs and combines their samples, enhancing the study’s ability to detect effects under real conditions. In addition, a paired implementation study will enable researchers to explain how factors such as teacher experience may affect the results.

In 2011, the team randomly assigned one program to each school to use as its core curriculum in reading or math. The schools received free materials and the first of several training sessions. Staff then began data collection, which takes place in fall and spring. The study’s results will provide a comprehensive evaluation of the two programs and reliable evidence that education leaders can use to guide their decisions.

  SRA Imagine It! and
Everyday Mathematics®
Louisiana Striving Readers
Study Design Cluster RCT using mixed-methods RCT using mixed-methods
Sample 2011: 4 districts, 20 schools, ~250 teachers, ~1,500 students; 2012: 40 schools set to join 4 parishes, 10 middle schools, ~1,200 students
Grades K–2, 3–5 (2 cohorts) 6–7
Length 3 school years 1 school year
Data Collection student assessments, surveys, and demographic data; classroom observations; archival data

Louisiana Striving Readers

In 2011, SEDL also neared completion of a Striving Readers evaluation for the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). The 1-year RCT is assessing the effectiveness of Voyager Passport Reading Journeys, a supplemental program for adolescents reading 2 or more years below grade level. The program is used in more than 470 districts. Building on less rigorous research, the study will show whether gains in reading and other outcomes are greater for students exposed to the program than for those exposed to other supplemental or elective classes and under what conditions.

SEDL collaborated with the Institute of Education Sciences, LDOE, and Voyager to develop and implement a rigorous design across 10 middle schools in 4 Louisiana parishes. Staff then implemented a random assignment process and collected Fall 2010 baseline data and Spring 2011 follow-up data. The findings, set to be reported in 2012, will expand the research base of effective adolescent literacy programs.

Quote from Gary Jones, Superintendent, Rapides Parish School District, Louisiana. A lot of times, the decision as to which program to adopt is based on the skill of the [textbook company’s] presenter. . . . [With research], you have some sort of ability to sort through the data and find out what works and what doesn’t.