Program Areas | K-12 Education

Chicago Public Schools: Evaluation of Striving Readers

In February 2008, Metis began an evaluation of Striving Readers, a literacy initiative undertaken by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for struggling readers in grades six through eight. CPS was one of only eight school systems to have been awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Education in the first cycle of this program.

Striving Readers, implemented from September 2006 through June 2011, aimed to transform literacy teaching and learning through a seamless, aligned approach for the targeted students in 31 schools. Most of the Striving Readers schools are in economically disadvantaged areas, and the middle-grade students in the program face achievement gaps that are associated with the complex socioeconomic and educational factors endemic to large urban areas like Chicago. The program utilizes an unusual technology in which sixth graders are given hand-held computers for a variety of literacy-based activities.

Metis conducted a rigorous evaluation, comparing the participating schools with randomly assigned control schools, using an experimental design involving a wide range of qualitative methods as well as sensitive empirical analyses of achievement test data.

As detailed in the final evaluation report, those schools that implemented the program with high fidelity saw significant improvements in student literacy. Moreover, the report painstakingly documents the school-based conditions under which high-fidelity implementation occurs, and can be used to inform other districts striving to adopt a new initiative. For example, high-fidelity sites' principals are actively engaged with their program and give staff the financial and material resources they need to fully implement it. Further, teachers at these schools are confident and knowledgeable about the program. Moreover, the most successful schools are those that put a full effort into the program even if it does not appear at first to be successful.