University of Delaware Study Finds that Free Bookworms Curriculum Helped Students Outperform State Average in Three Years

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The Center for Research in Education and Social Policy found that students using the free K-5 lesson plans outperformed in nearly all subgroups including English Language Learners and special education.

Today, the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy (CRESP) at the University of Delaware (UD) released a case study of the four-year implementation of the Bookworms curriculum at a school district located in rural Southern Delaware. The analysis consistently found that students who were once under-performing the state average are now outperforming the state average three years later. The same results were seen in nearly all subgroups of students including English Language Learners (ELL) and special education.

In 2014, the Bookworms curriculum was introduced as a pilot program in four elementary schools within the school district. The district, which educates approximately 1,760 elementary students, had faced broad challenges such as staff and teacher transitions, funding limitations, and curriculum shortcomings that impeded instruction and student academic achievement.

Overall, CRESP found that when implemented with fidelity, staff and teachers categorized Bookworms as a successful program. Teachers cited both real and anecdotal data to capture the success and impact of the Bookworms program, including among students receiving learning and behavior interventions, students learning English as a second language, and students with disabilities. Bookworms improved a student's ability to think critically, understand what they read, and write clearly—crucial skills that align with both Common Core standards and the state-mandated assessment.

“One of the findings I found most impressive was the increase in the percentage of ELL students meeting the state’s ELA standard – from less than 15% in 3rd grade to over 40% in 5th grade,” said Dr. Sue Giancola, CRESP Associate Director. “During the same time, the state average dropped from just under one-quarter of 3rd grade ELL's meeting the ELA standard to less than 15% meeting standard in 5th grade.”

In its analysis, CRESP summarized student performance data for three cohorts of students in the pilot schools. These data come from Delaware’s state-required Smarter Balanced assessment administered annually beginning in grade 3. The two 3rd-5th grade cohorts either met or exceeded the state's average by 5th grade; the 3rd-4th grade cohort had considerably surpassed the state average by the end of 4th grade. The upward trajectory of scores was consistent across not only multiple cohorts, but also multiple demographic groups within those cohorts.

In addition to gains on test scores, CRESP observed overarching gains in the number of students demonstrating academic proficiency. For example, in Cohort 1 only 36.9% of students met state English Language Arts (ELA) standards in 3rd grade; by 5th grade, 61.0% of the students were meeting ELA standards.

For more details and full breakdown of the data, access the full report at

What is Bookworms?
Based on leading literacy research and best practices, the Bookworms curriculum is a reading and writing program that places significant emphasis on grade level reading, differentiated skills instruction, and genre-based writing strategy instruction. In order to maximize daily reading and student engagement, Bookworms incorporates 265 whole books instead of the shorter reading passages that are often found in other curricula. Bookworms is unique in that lesson plans are Open Educational Resources (OER) that can be freely used without charge. The OER nature of the lesson plans makes the adoption of Bookworms affordable, and costs typically used for curriculum acquisition can be re-invested in principal and teacher support.

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The University of Delaware's Center for Research in Education and Social Policy (CRESP) conducts rigorous research to help policymakers and practitioners in education, community health and human services determine which policies and programs are most promising to improve outcomes for children, youth, adults and families. For more information please visit

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