Grant recipient: The University of Tennessee
Term: 2016 – 2021
Principal Investigator: Anne McGill-Franzen, Ph. D., the Reading Center, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Funding: $150,000 from LJAF (the Annie E. Casey Foundation is providing $100,000 in co-funding)
Summary: As background, schools with a high proportion of students from poor families struggle to turn around low academic performance, as evidenced by the mixed success of reform efforts, summer school, and parent programs. The gap is already large upon entry into kindergarten, exacerbated over time by the few resources for academic learning available to poor families over the summer, and ultimately reflected in a much lower high school graduation rate.
This project develops policy relevant evidence for mitigating the achievement gap by expanding Annual Summer Book Fairs, a well-researched and low-cost summer reading intervention to mitigate summer reading loss that has met the “near top tier” evidence standard according to the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy. A previously conducted randomized controlled trial (Allington, et al., 2010) established that providing 10 – 12 free, self-selected books to first and second grade cohorts (N=1,713) from 17 high-poverty urban, primarily African-American, elementary schools over three summers not only mitigated summer reading loss but increased students’ annual reading achievement on the Florida statewide test at the 3rd and 4th grade level by 0.14 standard deviations overall and close to 0.21 standard deviations for the poorest students. Annual Book Fairs is an inexpensive intervention – the cost per child over three years is only $225.
This replication study will expand the intervention to a different high-poverty student population in rural East Tennessee. Approximately 1,640 first graders who are eligible for free/reduced lunch will be randomly assigned to either the treatment (summer books) or the control (no books) conditions. The study will access the state reading assessment data (TNReady) and, if available, partner districts’ local assessments to measure student outcomes over a three-year period.
The study’s pre-specified analysis plan is linked here.