Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction


Educational Technology

Major Advisor

William Parrett, Ph.D.


Reading First is a federally funded program designed to increase literacy rates of at-risk children by providing researched based reading instruction in schools with a history of low achievement. The guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) for Reading First (RF) is very prescriptive (NRFTAC, 2007) in terms of both the content of instruction and the organization of a school. While many RF schools have made progress in closing the achievement gap, some schools have made exemplary strides in improving outcomes for students. A study conducted by the National Center for Reading First Technical Assistance Center (NRFTAC, 2007) offers insight into the differences among schools. NRFTAC identified ten schools in western states that stood out because they had a higher level of challenge (beginning of year reading proficiency) and yet had made significant gains with their students. Through interviews with these schools and their technical assistance providers NRFTAC created a handbook of best practices. Four areas of school organization that appear to impact achievement results for struggling readers and were not included in the original guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education are assessment and data utilization, time and resource management, focused instruction, and instructional delivery. Can sharing the best practices of these high performing schools with schools struggling to meet the needs of all learners result in higher literacy rates?

This research examined the impact of increased technical assistance based on NRFTAC’s handbook on literacy rates in participating schools. Participation in the Increased Technical Assistance project (ITA) was voluntary. Schools were randomly selected from the quadrant of schools categorized by RF project staff as low achievement, low growth. Student achievement (both adequate progress and outcome) in the participating schools was compared to a control group (schools within the quadrant). Participants reported that ITA was both useful and effective (NWREL, 2008). They identified actions such as strengthening data analysis, focused interventions, and incorporation of professional learning communities (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2006) in grade level team meetings. In spite of the positive experiences reported by both school personnel and ITA providers, student achievement data did not show a clear association between ITA and reading proficiency.