A review of reading and math interventions for struggling secondary students

School‐based interventions targeting students with, or at risk of, academic difficulties in Grades 7–12 have on average positive effect s on standardised tests in reading and maths. The most effective interventions have the potential to considerably decrease the gap between at‐risk and not‐at‐risk students. Effects vary substantially between interventions, however, and the evidence for using certain instructional methods or targeting certain domains is weaker.

Best Evidence in Brief Index

By Nathan Storey, Johns Hopkins University

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.

Interventions that included peer small group…

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