Through a systematic review published by Campbell Collaboration, Jen Dietrichson and colleagues examined the effect of school-based reading and math interventions on struggling and at-risk secondary students. The study examined programs focused on skill areas in reading and math, including reading comprehension, fluency, algebra, and fractions. They also reviewed studies that addressed certain instructional methods—student peer-assisted learning, introducing incentives, small group instruction, progress monitoring, computer-assisted instruction (CAI), and subject-specific coaching for teachers.
Dietrichson and colleagues reviewed the effect sizes of 71 studies, primarily randomized control trials (52 or 75%), 59 of which were from the United States. Included studies targeted school-based academic skills for struggling or at-risk students in Grades 7-12, used treatment and control groups (either through a randomized control trial or a quasi-experimental design), and relied on standardized tests in math or reading as their output. The results were as follows:
- Interventions that included peer small group instruction (ES = +0.38) produced higher effect sizes than computer-assisted instruction (ES =+ 0.17), progress monitoring (ES = +0.19), or teacher coaching (ES = +0.10), though all of these interventions had positive and statistically significant average effect sizes.
- However, overall, interventions with student incentives were not statistically significant.
- On average, math interventions had larger effects on standardized tests than did reading interventions (ES= +0.34).
- In terms of reading interventions, programs focusing on fluency, vocabulary, multiple reading areas, meta- cognitive, social-emotional, or general academic skills, comprehension, spelling and writing, and decoding all had positive, statistically significant effect sizes between +0.14 and +0.22.
The authors expressed concerns about some of the findings, noting that only 35% of the interventions featured in the review described some form of implementation. In addition, while short-term outcomes based on the interventions in the study appeared to be positive and statistically significant (ES= +0.22), longer-term impacts on student learning were inconclusive.
Source: Dietrichson, J., Filges, T., Klokker, R. H., Viinholt, B. C., Bøg, M., & Jensen, U. H. (2020). Targeted school‐based interventions for improving reading and mathematics for students with, or at risk of, academic difficulties in Grades 7–12: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 16(2), e1081.