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Promising Program Seal

Open Court Reading

Blueprints Program Rating: Promising

A program that provides elementary grade children with a positive and effective early academic experience and strong, research-based foundation in learning to read by using a set curriculum, training teachers in diagnostics and assessment, and emphasizing professional development in order to reach all learners and prevent struggling readers later.

  • Academic Performance

    Program Type

    • Academic Services
    • School - Individual Strategies

    Program Setting

    • School

    Continuum of Intervention

    • Universal Prevention (Entire Population)

    A program that provides elementary grade children with a positive and effective early academic experience and strong, research-based foundation in learning to read by using a set curriculum, training teachers in diagnostics and assessment, and emphasizing professional development in order to reach all learners and prevent struggling readers later.

      Population Demographics

      The program targets children in early elementary grades.

      Age

      • Late Childhood (5-11) - K/Elementary

      Gender

      • Male and Female

      Race/Ethnicity

      • All Race/Ethnicity

      Race/Ethnicity/Gender Details

      No differential analysis is provided by race/ethnicity or gender.

      The program intends to improve later school outcomes by improving the quality of reading instruction among early learners.

      • Individual
      Risk Factors
      • School: Poor academic performance*

      *Risk/Protective Factor was significantly impacted by the program.

      Open Court Reading (OCR) is a phonic-based K-3 curriculum. It includes age-appropriate materials for students, training in pedagogy for teachers, and workshops for professional development of teachers. The OCR curriculum includes three components: Foundational Skills, Reading and Responding, and Language Arts.

      Open Court Reading (OCR) is a phonic-based K-3 curriculum. It includes age-appropriate materials for students, training in pedagogy for teachers, and workshops for professional development of teachers. The OCR curriculum includes three components: Foundational Skills, Reading and Responding, and Language Arts. Foundational Skills activities, depending on the grade level, build skills in phonemic awareness, sounds and letters, phonics, fluency, and word knowledge. Reading and Responding focuses instruction on building background, thinking about text prior to reading, developing vocabulary, reading from the student anthology, and emphasizing reading for understanding through complex texts. The Language Arts section emphasizes the writing process; spelling; grammar usage and mechanics; additional vocabulary; penmanship; and listening, speaking, and viewing.

      Many of the inequalities in school and society can be traced to the first few years of formal schooling and children’s initial experiences learning to read. The Open Court Reading curriculum is intended to improve reading outcomes among elementary school students.

      • Skill Oriented

      Borman et al. (2008) conducted a multisite, cluster-randomized controlled trial in which 57 elementary school classrooms, with a total of 1,099 children, from grades 1 through 5 were randomly assigned to a treatment or control condition. The treatment condition included delivery of the Open Court Reading materials and professional development; the control condition asked teachers to continue with instruction as they had been practicing previously. The study administered a pretest in fall of the 2006-2007 school year and the posttest in the spring of that year, both of which were anonymous.

      Skindrud and Gersten (2006) conducted a quasi-experimental, matched group study of 936 second and third graders in 12 schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District. The study selected eight schools implementing the Open Court Reading curriculum that matched four schools implementing Success for All on demographic characteristics and reading scores. The study administered a pretest and posttests at the end of the subsequent two school years.

      As compared to the control group in Borman et al. (2008), the treatment group showed significant improvements in an aggregate measure of all grade levels for all three outcomes: a reading composite score, reading vocabulary, and reading comprehension.

      In Skindrud and Gersten (2006), students who began the Open Court Reading program while in the second grade showed significant improvement in reading and language scores at both posttest periods, when compared to students in schools implementing Success for All. Students who began the Open Court Reading program while in the 3rd grade did not show significant improvement as compared to classrooms using Success for All.

      Borman et al. (2008) found that compared to the control group, students in the treatment classrooms had significant improvements in:

      • Reading composite score
      • Reading vocabulary
      • Reading comprehension

      Skindrud and Gersten (2006) found that 2nd grade students in Open Court Reading schools showed significantly greater improvement than students in Success for All schools on:

      • Reading test scores
      • Language test scores

      The study does not provide any formal mediator analysis.

      Borman et al. (2008) found very small effect sizes for reading composite (d=0.16), reading vocabulary (d=0.19), and reading comprehension (d=0.12).

      Skindrud and Gersten (2006) reported effect sizes for reading that are small-medium for 2nd graders at posttest 1 (d=0.41) and posttest 2 (d=0.30). The reported effect sizes for language are also small-medium at posttest 1 (d=0.29) and posttest 2 (d=0.40). Effects sizes were larger (.31 to .77) for students starting in the bottom fifth of readers.

      Both studies used large samples; Borman et al. (2008) drew their sample from a large geographic area, while Skindrud and Gersten (2006) drew their sample from one city.

      Borman et al. (2008):

      • Reported effect sizes are small
      • Models do not control for baseline outcomes of individual subjects
      • Limited test for differential attrition

      Skindrud and Gersten (2006):

      • Study uses a quasi-experimental, matched group design and there is no true control group
      • Analysis done at the wrong level
      • There were baseline differences between conditions in pretest scores
      • Analysis ruled out sample bias on outcomes, however after excluding program dropouts, the sample mean was significantly lower
      • Sample is drawn from a limited geographic area

      • Blueprints: Promising
      • What Works Clearinghouse: Meets Standards Without Reservations - Positive Effect

      Borman, G. D., Dowling, N. M. & Schneck, C. (2008). A multisite cluster randomized field trial of Open Court Reading. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30, 389-407.

      Skindrud, K. & Gersten, R. (2006). An evaluation of two contrasting approaches for improving reading achievement in a large urban district. The Elementary School Journal, 106, 389-408.

      Delonda Morton
      McGraw-Hill Education
      National Director for Professional Development
      8787 Orion Place
      Columbus, OH  43240
      (815) 258-1010
      delonda.morton@mheducation.com

      For McGraw-Hill Education Learning Specialist:
      www.mheducation.com/prek-12/explore/open-court/product.html

      Study 1

      Borman, G. D., Dowling, N. M. & Schneck, C. (2008). A multisite cluster randomized field trial of Open Court Reading. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30, 389-407.

      Borman, G. D., Dowling, N. M. & Schneck, C. (2008). A multisite cluster randomized field trial of Open Court Reading. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30, 389-407.

      Evaluation Methodology

      Design:

      Recruitment: The study offered free materials, training, and support to schools interested in implementing the Open Court Reading program in exchange for participation in the study. The study required participating schools to distribute materials and training only to those classrooms randomly assigned to the treatment and to abide by the data collection schedule. The study selected 6 schools.

      Assignment: The study used a block randomized plan for assignment of classrooms within the 6 selected schools. Each grade level, 1 through 5, represented the blocks. Within the blocks, 57 classrooms were randomly assigned to either the control or treatment group. The treatment group received the Open Court Reading curriculum, whereas the control classrooms continued with the curriculum they had been using previously.

      Attrition: To preserve anonymity, individual students were not linked at pretest and posttest. Of the originally randomized students (n=1,099), the number of students who participated in the final assessments ranged from 917 to 923, including the loss of one school, which did not want to complete posttesting, and individual students within other schools who were unavailable for testing. The analytic sample had five schools and 49 classrooms. Attrition was stated as up to 15.49% of control students and 15.78% of treatment students.

      Sample: Treatment classrooms were, on average, composed of 71% minority students and 77% of students who received free or reduced-price lunches. Similarly, the composition of control classrooms was 74% minority and 76% of students who received free or reduced-price lunches.

      Measures: The study used the CTBS/5, Terra Nova Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary tests at pretest and posttest. It treated the reading comprehension and vocabulary scores separately, in addition to a reading composite score. Independent assessors blind to condition gave the tests. No information on validity or reliability was presented, but the tests appear to be commonly used and likely well validated.

      Analysis: Given the randomization of classrooms within schools, the study used random effects hierarchical linear models with three levels for individuals, classrooms, and school/blocks. The mean classroom pretest scores served as a fixed covariate to control for baseline outcomes, as the models could not link individual pretest and posttest scores.

      Intent-to-Treat: The study included all schools and students who completed the posttest.

      Outcomes

      Implementation Fidelity: The study does not provide quantitative measures of implementation fidelity, however observation of classrooms found good fidelity to the training.

      Baseline Equivalence: The study reported that the percentages of minorities, special education students, free-lunch participants, English as Second Language students and the mean pretest outcomes were statistically equivalent across treatments and control classrooms.

      Differential Attrition: The study provided analysis of differential attrition by condition and found no significant difference (p=.87). However, without linking pretest and posttest scores, it could not test for individual differences between completers and dropouts on baseline measures.

      Posttest: Models were presented for all five grades combined. The treatment variable revealed a statistically significant classroom-level effect of assignment to OCR on all three outcomes. The study expressed these estimated impacts as effect sizes. For the reading composite (d=0.16), reading vocabulary (d=0.19), and reading comprehension (d=0.12) scores, the effect sizes were small.

      Long-Term: The study did not conduct a long-term follow-up on student outcomes.

      Skindrud, K. & Gersten, R. (2006). An evaluation of two contrasting approaches for improving reading achievement in a large urban district. The Elementary School Journal, 106, 389-408.

      Evaluation Methodology

      Design:

      Recruitment: The study selected 8 schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District that were implementing Open Court Reading and were matches for 4 schools of similar socioeconomic profiles that were implementing Success for All. Little additional information is provided about recruitment of classrooms or schools. The study took place after California legislation required schools to implement one of the two programs; the 12 selected schools had all chosen to implement one of these programs during the year of the study.

      AssignmentAssignment was based on school self-selection into the Open Court Reading or Success for All programs. It appears that 4 of 5 Success for All schools were used and 8 of about 54 Open Court Reading schools were then chosen as matches. Matching was based on Title I poverty criteria. For academic outcomes, 2nd and 3rd grade students were studied, with a pretest N of 1614.

      AttritionAttrition over two years was stated as 41% for each of the Open Court Reading and Success for All groups. After also dropping grade-retained students, the analysis included 936 of the original 1614 students (57% completion).

      Sample: The sample included 2nd and 3rd grade students. The selected schools ranged from 58% to 86% on district poverty criteria.

      Measures: The study used the Stanford Achievement Test 9th edition reading and language subtests for both posttests, and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills as a pretest. No information on validity or reliability was presented, but the tests appear to be commonly used and likely well validated. Teachers gave the tests but likely had little influence over the objective test results.

      Analysis: The study conducted two-by-two analyses of covariance for individuals with one between-subjects factor (reading programs) and one within-subjects factor (year of posttest). The models for individual students did not adjust for assignment of schools to the conditions. The pretest scores from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills served as a covariate. Models were estimated separately for classrooms starting the program in the 2nd grade and classrooms starting the program in the 3rd grade.

      Intent-to-Treat: The study included only those students continuously enrolled for the two study years. Students who entered and/or left; were grade-retained, or absent during testing were dropped. These exclusions may violate intent-to-treat.

      Outcomes

      Implementation Fidelity: The study does not provide quantitative measures of implementation fidelity for Open Court Reading; however schools reported few implementation problems by the end of year 2. In Success for All classrooms, teacher observation readings were 99 on average (comparable to the average of 100 nationally).

      Baseline Equivalence: Mean pretest scores were significantly different between conditions, 35.9 for Success for All schools and 30.1 for Open Court Reading schools (d = .30). The schools appeared similar on other student and teacher characteristics.

      Differential Attrition: Analysis of attrition showed that there were no significant differences between rates for the two conditions or between the reading scores of dropouts in the two conditions. However after removing attriters, the mean pretest score for the sample was significantly lower. Also, tests for attrition do not appear to have included students who were excluded because they were retained in grade.

      Posttest: Posttest analysis showed that in classrooms that implemented the treatment starting in 2nd grade, Open Court Reading classrooms had significantly better reading scores at posttest (p<.001) than did Success for All classrooms. Similarly, these classrooms had better language test scores (p<.001). However, for classrooms that began implementing the program in the 3rd grade, there were significant but weak differences between conditions on reading and language at only the second posttest.

      Tests among students in the bottom quintile of readers showed stronger effects of the program. Additional analyses examined demand for special education services and teacher responses to surveys but did not make comparisons across groups.

      Long-Term: The study did not conduct a long-term follow-up on student outcomes.