At-Risk Students Improve Reading and Writing Skills Using Merit Software

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Research findings to be presented at 17th Annual National Youth-At-Risk Conference 2006 in Savannah, GA on March 7th.

Using Merit reading and writing software as a supplement to instruction increases long term standardized test scores for low achieving students, say researchers at the Marshall University Graduate College in South Charleston, West Virginia. Consultants carefully monitored the progress of students at Calhoun Middle/High School in Mount Zion, West Virginia, where the software was used for two years in a row. The lowest twenty-five percent of treatment group students made greater test score gains than students who did not use the software. This is among the first scientific-based research studies to show continuous gains in reading and writing test scores when teaching with computer assisted instruction in schools.

“While research generally confirms that the effective use of educational software is consistent with higher standardized test scores, the lack of rigor in the design of many of these earlier studies raises questions about their findings,” says Dr. J. D. Jones, lead researcher for the study. “It is clear Merit reading and writing software had a positive impact on the achievement of struggling students.” Dr. Jones will present the findings of the report at the 17th Annual National Youth-At-Risk Conference 2006 in Savannah, GA on March 7th.

The report is a follow-up to a previous study, which showed that students using Merit Software made significant gains in their standardized test scores. By continuing to use Merit reading and writing software as a supplement to everyday instruction, students continued to raise their test scores. Low achieving students made continuous advances in Reading/Language Arts compared to the control group.

Long term gains for the lowest twenty-five percent of the treatment group students transferred to test scores in other areas of academics, including Social Studies, Science and Math. The positive impact of using Merit at Calhoun was also reproduced at Grandview Elementary School in Charleston, West Virginia. At Grandview 5th graders made similar gains in their first year using the software.

The Merit programs used by the teachers were Accu-Reading, Essay Punch, Grammar Fitness, Paragraph Punch, Vocabulary Fitness and Vocabulary Stretch. The programs are self-paced tutorials. Students see the immediate impact of their replies to questions. Often, they are given explanations for their responses, whether the answer is right or wrong. The use of higher levels of cognitive thinking is required of students using the programs.

Calhoun County Middle/High School was chosen as a test site primarily because the school district has demonstrated a strong initiative in adopting innovative ideas to improve instruction. Calhoun County is one of West Virginia’s most rural counties. It also has a stable, albeit impoverished, population. Grandview Elementary School was chosen because it is an urban school with a high percentage of Title 1 students.

Teachers at the schools selected which classes would participate in the evaluation and which would act as a control group, receiving their regular instruction. Students were assigned to their classes by the school districts’ classroom management software.

In the previous study, students using Merit reading and language arts software programs increased growth in their Stanford Achievement Test, Ninth Edition (SAT-9) Reading Vocabulary score by an average of 13.1% and their Reading Comprehension score by 10.5%. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education, a peer-reviewed academic journal.

About Merit Software: Merit Software (http://www.meritsoftware.com) is an experienced publisher of educational software. Since 1983, Merit Software has focused on the core competencies for grades 3-12 and adult education. Merit Software is currently being used in thousands of educational facilities.

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Ben Weintraub
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