A Meta-Analysis of Interventions for Struggling Readers in Grades 4–12: 1980–2011


This meta-analysis synthesizes the literature on interventions for struggling readers in grades 4 through 12 published between 1980 and 2011. It updates Scammacca et al.’s (2007) analysis of studies published between 1980 and 2004. The combined corpus of 82 study-wise effect sizes was meta-analyzed to determine (a) the overall effectiveness of reading interventions studied over the past 30 years; (b) how the magnitude of the effect varies based on student, intervention, and research design characteristics; and (c) what differences in effectiveness exist between more recent interventions and older ones. The analysis yielded a mean effect of 0.49, considerably smaller than the 0.95 mean effect reported in 2007. The mean effect for standardized measures was 0.21, also much smaller than the 0.42 mean effect reported in 2007. The mean effects for reading comprehension measures were similarly diminished. Results indicated that the mean effects for the 1980–2004 and 2005–2011 groups of studies were different to a statistically significant degree. The decline in effect sizes over time is attributed at least in part to increased use of standardized measures, more rigorous and complex research designs, differences in participant characteristics, and improvements in the school’s “business-as-usual” instruction that often serves as the comparison condition in intervention studies.


Scammacca, N., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., & Stuebing, K. (2013). A meta-analysis of interventions for struggling readers in grades 4–12: 1980–2011. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 20(10), 1–22. doi:10.1177/0022219413504995