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How Federal Funding Helped Develop A Reading Program With Proven Results

Federal investments in reading education and early literacy research and development (R&D) have played a major role in our understanding of how the brain interprets language and learns to read. It has also helped researchers identify the best evidence-based methods of early literacy instruction.

 

These investments have been valuable because reading is critical to success in school and in life. Research shows that students who have not mastered reading by Grade 3 are far more likely to drop out of high school, which significantly limits their career options and suppresses their lifetime earning potential – and the nation’s competitiveness. This is especially true for low-income students and those from traditionally underserved communities.

One beneficiary of federal investments in reading R&D is A2i, a professional support system that helps students learn to read through personalized small-group instruction. Initially developed by Learning Ovations, A2i combines a data-focused technology platform with professional learning for teachers that allows them to effectively individualize literacy instruction. 

 

With strong roots in classroom-based research, A2i’s developers were able to demonstrate to federal funders that the early results they were seeing were worthy of additional investment. Having those research-backed proof points secured the funding necessary to pay to build the platform, and enabled the creation of the online assessments needed to drive the recommendations. Federal funding also allowed the team to run its initial efficacy trials, which the team then used to secure additional funding to scale up the effort into a commercially viable product.

Among the federal grants received were:

  • $14.65 million via an Education and Innovation Research Program Expansion Grant

  • $6.29 million in Institute of Education Sciences Grants

  • $2.87 million from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

  • $2.24 million in ED/IES Small Business Innovation Research Grants

 

In September 2022, the publisher Scholastic acquired A2i with plans to use it as part of its Education Solutions' literacy program.

 

“The federal funding Learning Ovations received enabled each step of A2i’s development, from the original research to the support for its scale-up as a commercial product,” said Dr. Amanda Alexander, Chief Academic Officer for Scholastic Education Solutions. “The resulting research-based, classroom-proven system is a fully-developed solution for teachers that is highly efficacious, deeply rigorous and easy to use. It was these unique characteristics that made Scholastic so interested in acquiring the product.” 

Impact

Number of students using A2i:

44,000

 

Number of home versions in use:

14,000

 

Success rate:

94% of students are able to read at or above grade level by the end of 3rd grade.

Teacher Helping Student

A2i received approximately $26.06 million in federal R&D funding: 

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The A2i assessments track student progress and feed into a platform that provides teachers with instructional recommendations and identifies students with similar needs for more effective small-group work. As students get reassessed and new data becomes available, the A2i instructional recommendation algorithms are updated in real-time, so teachers get accurate information for their students across the school year. A2i provides teachers with training and support by pairing them with Literacy Outcomes Specialists who act as thought partners and coaches to administrators and teachers. Because every district has its own unique challenges and goals, Literacy Outcomes Specialists help their district partners develop customized implementation plans reflecting their unique circumstances. 

 

A2i has been shown to significantly improve student reading outcomes. Developed over more than 15 years, A2i is the result of literacy research conducted by Dr. Carol Connor and her colleagues at Florida State University. This research included more than 2,000 hours spent observing literacy instruction in preschool through third-grade classrooms. Everything that occurred in the classrooms was recorded and tagged so all instructional moves students received could be analyzed. This allowed Dr. Connor and her team to develop formulas for successful instruction based on what they saw working in the classrooms they observed. Later, these formulas became the basis for the algorithms that power the A2i platform.  

 

Seven randomized control trials have established the effectiveness of A2i. Plus, it has been the subject of numerous peer-reviewed journal articles. In a longitudinal study following A2i students from first to third grade, it was found that 94 percent of students in A2i classrooms all three years were able to read at or above grade level by the end of 3rd grade.    

 

A2i has the highest efficacy rating possible under the Every Student Succeeds Act (Tier 1 “Strong” Evidence), and multiple studies that meet the What Works Clearinghouse standards without reservations. To date, A2i has been used with approximately 44,000 students in schools nationwide, and in nearly 14,000 homes through a home version launched during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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