SEDL’s Research and Evaluation Department Wins Federal Grant to Study Effectiveness of Reading Program

April 15, 2009
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556

SEDL was recently awarded a 4-year, $5.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to conduct a national research study assessing the effectiveness of SRA/McGraw-Hill’s Imagine It! reading and language arts program in elementary school classrooms. The grant is one of the largest of its kind and one of only three that IES has awarded in the scale-up evaluations categories in reading and writing.

In partnership with other nationally recognized researchers, SEDL staff will study the effectiveness of Imagine It! in 12 districts and 48 schools, including approximately 200 classrooms and more than 5,000 students. The study will use a multisite cluster randomized trial design and determine (a) whether Imagine It! affects student reading outcomes for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and (b) how the effects of Imagine It! vary across students, schools, and districts.

Dr. Michael Vaden-Kiernan, director of Research and Evaluation for SEDL, will serve as the principal investigator for the project. Dr. Geoffrey Borman, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and deputy director of the university’s Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Program, will serve as co-principal investigator. “I feel like the study is an exciting opportunity for SEDL researchers to collaborate with experts in the field, such as Dr. Geoffrey Borman and others, on a much-needed and timely study to provide more rigorous evidence regarding the effectiveness of a reading program that has been around for many decades and has been scaled up to a national level,” said Dr. Vaden-Kiernan.

Imagine It! is the next generation of SRA/McGraw-Hill’s Open Court Reading series, a core reading program that has been widely used since the 1960s. A limited but growing body of research has examined the impact of Open Court Reading on student reading outcomes and the program’s promise in preventing reading difficulties. “There have been few large-scale randomized trials that test the effectiveness of replicable educational interventions deployed across many schools,” said Dr. Borman. “This is an exciting opportunity to study Imagine It!, and the results are sure to be of considerable consequence to policymakers, researchers, and educational practitioners across the nation.”

Evidence from 2 decades of research suggests that with appropriate instruction nearly all students can become competent readers. Yet, statistics indicate that 67% of fourth-grade students fail to reach proficient-level reading scores. Recent initiatives emphasize the critical role of early reading instruction in preventing reading difficulties and recognize that students who do not learn to read well by third grade are less likely to build vocabulary and interact with a wide variety of texts. Such failure can have a long-term impact on children’s self-confidence, motivation to learn, performance in school, and success in life. In addition, reading difficulties are the most common reason for referral into special education.

“Over 60 years, SRA/McGraw-Hill has conducted numerous research projects to establish the effectiveness of our programs,” said Dan Caton, president of SRA/McGraw-Hill. “But with this extensive SEDL study, we are drawing on such a huge pool of resources, and this research is being taken to the next level. This is a unique opportunity to partner with a research institution as impressive as SEDL.”

About SEDL
SEDL (formerly Southwest Educational Development Laboratory) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit

SEDL’s research and evaluation department maintains a portfolio of rigorous research assessing the degree to which education policies, programs, and practices improve student learning. In addition to the Imagine It! study, current literacy evaluation projects at SEDL include work in the Recovery School District in New Orleans, Louisiana, and an evaluation of the Early Reading First project in Madison Parish, Louisiana. For more information about SEDL’s research and evaluation work in reading and literacy and to follow the progress of this work over time, please visit the Web site at

About Imagine It!
Imagine It! is the result of 45 years of research and field study. The program contains all the elements recommended by the National Reading Panel: instruction in phonological and phonemic awareness, explicit phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The program has a focus on Response to Intervention and covers all daily reading, language arts, and writing curriculum requirements. Imagine It! also has abundant curriculum links to science and social studies and fully integrates state-of-the-art technology tools to enhance learning. The authors, who are researchers themselves, continue to update the program as new studies are published revealing the latest findings on effective instructional methods. For more information, visit

About SRA/McGraw-Hill
SRA/McGraw-Hill is the top provider of specialized research-based educational programs and professional development for the elementary market. Leading programs include the SRA Imagine It! reading program, Direct Instruction, SRA Number Worlds, and additional core and supplemental programs. SRA is part of McGraw-Hill Education, a division of the McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP). McGraw-Hill Education is a leading global provider of instructional, assessment, and reference solutions that empower professionals and students of all ages. McGraw-Hill Education has offices in 33 countries and publishes in more than 65 languages. Additional information is available at