In 2010, the Success for All Foundation (SFAF) was awarded a $50 million Investing in Innovation (i3) scale-up grant from the US Department of Education, helping to expand its comprehensive school improvement programme. As part of the grant, MDRC carried out an independent evaluation of SFAF’s scale-up initiative. MDRC’s third and final report from the evaluation examines the impact of the Success for All (SFA) reading programme over three years, its incremental cost, and the scale-up process itself.
A total of 37 schools were involved in the study, with 19 randomly chosen to adopt SFA in all year groups, and 18 control schools, which continued to use their existing reading programmes. Key findings included:
SFA is an effective vehicle for teaching phonics. In the average SFA school, the programme registered a notable, statistically significant impact on a measure of phonics skills for second-graders (age 7/8) who had been in SFA for all three years, compared with their control group counterparts. Pupils in the average SFA school performed better than the average control group school on tests of reading fluency and comprehension, but not significantly.
For a subgroup of special concern to policy makers and practitioners – pupils entering school with low pre-literacy skills – SFA appears to be especially effective. Second-graders (Year 3) in the average SFA school who had started kindergarten (Year 1) in the bottom half of the sample in terms of their knowledge of the alphabet and their ability to sound out words registered significantly higher scores on measures of phonics skills, word recognition, and reading fluency than similar pupils in control group schools. The impact on comprehension for this group was also positive but not statistically significant.
In conclusion, the authors say, “The scale-up findings show that, for a modest investment, SFA reliably improves the decoding skills of students in kindergarten through second grade, and that it is especially beneficial for students who begin in the lower half in these skills.”
Source: Scaling Up the Success for All Model of School Reform: Final Report from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Evaluation (2015), MDRC.