Reading Plus

Study: Reutzel, Petscher, & Spichtig (2012)

Reutzel, D. R., Petscher, Y., Spichtig, A. N. (2012). Exploring a guided, silent reading intervention: Effects on struggling third-grade readers' achievement. Journal of Educational Research, 105(6), 404–415.
Descriptive Information Usage Acquisition and Cost Program Specifications and Requirements Training

The Reading Plus® System serves all students to increase vocabulary, comprehension, endurance, memory, silent reading fluency, and provides the ability to systematically master higher levels of text.

Reading Plus®is a guided, silent reading supplementary intervention. Students participate in a series of online, computer-based sessions that include a specific sequence of daily activities. As struggling students participate in Reading Plus®, the difficulty level of the reading material adjusts as a function of a student’s progress based upon reading comprehension and reading rate analyses.

Students begin the intervention by completing a reading assessment (Reading Placement Appraisal, RPA) to establish the initial placement level within the program. This 20-minute placement test assesses independent reading level, rate, comprehension, and vocabulary to determine the most appropriate practice starting level. The RPA consisted of three parts. Part I presents students with several 100-word selections followed by a set of literal recall questions. Content difficulty is adjusted according to a student’s comprehension performance and reading rate mastery to ascertain a student’s tentative independent reading level. Part II with its 300-word selections and diverse comprehension questions serves to confirm the independent reading level. Part III assesses a student’s vocabulary level. From the three-part RPA assessment, an instructional reading level is established for individual students and they are then placed at appropriate levels of reading challenge within each instructional component of Reading Plus®. Students continue to be assessed on similar tasks throughout the intervention period with appropriate adjustments made to the level of reading selections as a result of their performances on these formative assessments. As students participate in this supplementary silent reading fluency intervention, they are provided reading lessons and continuous feedback about their silent reading in an individual computer-based, online environment.

Each lesson begins with a perceptual accuracy and visual efficiency (PAVE) warm-up. This activity consists of two parts, Scan and Flash. In the Scan activity, students scan the computer screen to count the number of times a target letter or number appears on the screen. In the second activity, Flash, a series of letters or numbers ranging in length from 2 to 12 depending on the students’ placement level are flashed. The amount of numbers or letters increases in response to the students’ ability to correctly recreate the sequence. This warm-up activity aims to increase students’ visual perception, attention, and automaticity in the discrimination and recognition of print.

The next instructional component provides students with extensive structured silent reading practice to build fluency within an authentic reading experience where students read for meaning. During guided silent reading sessions, involving timed, guided, left-to-right reading practice, students read selections from a diverse collection of narrative and expository texts at each student’s independent instructional reading level.

Reading Plus® is designed to continuously monitor student performance using both reading rate measures and responses to comprehension questions. Reading Plus® uses a mix of instructional formats and scaffolds to further match individualized needs and rates of progress. Students are able to progress through levels of reading challenge based on several factors. Students must be able to read passages at their current levels with grade-appropriate rates and good comprehension before they advance to subsequent levels.

The program provides approximately 600 reading selections ranging from pre-primer to adult-level texts.   Selections represent narrative, expository, and informational texts in a wide array of genres. As students progress through the levels, the texts read become progressively longer and more challenging. The intent of the guided silent reading lesson is to provide students with authentic reading experiences that build comprehension, fluency, and stamina at a level of difficulty to accelerate their progress.

This guided silent reading component is followed by a cloze-structured vocabulary component. This vocabulary component uses structured contextual analysis activities to assist struggling students develop comprehension competency.

Performance scores within each practice module, the interconnectedness of the various practice
modules, integrated formative assessments following each lesson, and a highly sophisticated operating
system inform just-in-time instructional decisions that are sensitive to student characteristics such as age, reading level, performance, progress, and instructional trajectory. The integration of these modules allows for the system to provide each student with a practice environment that uniquely addresses his or her individual silent reading development needs at any moment in time during the intervention period.


Reading Plus® is intended for use in grades 3 through high school. The program is designed for use with students with learning disabilities, English language learners, and any student at risk of academic failure. The academic area of focus is reading (including comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary).


Where to obtain:
Reading Plus®/Taylor Associates
110 West Canal Street, Suite 301
Winooski, VT 05454
Phone #: 1-800-732-3758

The Reading Plus program is offered on a subscription basis. There are many available options for license duration and cost. Please contact Reading Plus at to learn more. Customer support, including training and start-up assistance, continuing education, and offline learning materials, are all included in the subscription cost. Tablets or computers with Internet access are required.

The program is designed for use with individual students and small groups of 5-25 students. The program administration time is 30-60 minutes per session with 3-5 sessions per week over the course of 7-24 weeks.

The program includes highly specified teacher manuals.

Reading Plus® is delivered online and works with both Macintosh and Windows operating systems. The minimum technical requirements are:
Operating System: Windows XP/Vista/7 or Mac OS v. 10.39


  • Windows: Internet Explorer 7+ or Firefox 3+
  • Mac: Safari 1.2+

Hardware: 1 GB RAM, 1 GHz CPU

  • Student: 0.04 (cached) – 0.4 Mbps (uncached)
  • Teacher: ~0.4 Mbps (30 students require a minimum of 1.2 Mbps)


  • Windows: Java Plug-in 1.6.0_20+
  • Mac: Java Plug-in 1.5.0_10+

Flash: Flash Plug-in 11+

Further specific technology requirements can be found online at



The program requires training for the instructor in the amount of 4-8 hours. Instructors receive two-part training that takes place via face-to-face or live webinar. Instructors receive Initial Training before they get started with Reading Plus and Follow-Up Training once students have completed at least 8 sessions in the program.

Initial Training covers content in 5 areas:
1) Why Reading Plus®?: Reading Plus leverages technology to provide students with effective scaffolded silent reading practice as well as development in foundational visual perceptual skills for silent reading.
2) Student Experience: Component programs of Reading Plus demonstrate what students will experience from their first log-in.
3) Getting Started: Hands-on training with the Reading Plus® teacher management interface
4) Motivation: Motivational tools built in the Reading Plus® system and what they do
5) Accessing Help: Assistance throughout their Reading Plus® implementation and a tour of the Reading Plus® Help Site and its resources.

Follow-Up Training enables participants to analyze detailed data and introduces them to the class-level and student-level reports that help them gauge the growth students are making within Reading Plus®. They learn about the best reports to access for varied purposes, including the best student reports to pull as they look for specific information regarding a student’s response to the intervention. Instructors also learn how to analyze the data to determine how they can adjust the program to best serve specific student needs.

The minimum qualifications for the instructor are that they are a paraprofessional. The program does not assume the instructor has expertise in a given area.

Reading Plus® training manuals and materials are available in both print and online formats. The basic principles of product function and usage are captured in printed materials. Reading Plus delivers online training and support to instructors and students available on demand. Online materials include a library of resources to provide instruction and assistance with the program. The online resources are monitored constantly.

Ongoing support to Reading Plus® instructors is provided. A Reading Plus® staff member is dedicated to each Reading Plus® site to provide individualized support to the site for the duration of their implementation.


Participants: Convincing Evidence

Sample size: 80 students (40 program, 40 control)

Risk Status: Students were identified as at risk for academic failure based on scores from 3rd grade end-of-year high-stakes assessments.





p of chi square





Grade level







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  American Indian






  Asian/Pacific Islander
























Socioeconomic status

  Subsidized lunch






  No subsidized lunch






Disability status

  Speech-language impairments






  Learning disabilities






  Behavior disorders






  Intellectual disabilities












  Not identified with a disability






ELL status

  English language learner






  Not English language learner



















Training of Instructors: Teachers had diverse backgrounds and varying levels of teaching experience, but all teachers using the treatment program received an initial hands-on 4-hour professional development course, which covered the pedagogy of the program, and basic functionality of the program and teacher management system. The initial professional development also allowed for teachers and administrators to design implementation and motivation plans specific for their school.  A follow up 3-hour professional development course was provided approximately 4 weeks later. This time period allowed the teachers to gain experience and allowed the students to accumulate usage data. The follow up professional development was then able to answer specific teacher usage questions and delve deeper into the progress monitoring and reporting features of the program. All teachers and administrators using the program received on-going support via site visits, email, and phone communications to address any questions or concerns that arose during the implementation period.

Design: Unconvincing Evidence

Did the study use random assignment?: No.

If not, was it a tenable quasi-experiment?: Yes.

If the study used random assignment, at pretreatment, were the program and control groups not statistically significantly different and had a mean standardized difference that fell within 0.25 SD on measures used as covariates or on pretest measures also used as outcomes?: Not applicable.

If not, at pretreatment, were the program and control groups not statistically significantly different and had a mean standardized difference that fell within 0.25 SD on measures central to the study (i.e., pretest measures also used as outcomes), and outcomes were analyzed to adjust for pretreatment differences?: No.

Were the program and control groups demographically comparable at pretreatment?: Yes.

Was there attrition bias1 ?: No.

Did the unit of analysis match the unit for random assignment (for randomized studies) or the assignment strategy (for quasi-experiments)?: Yes.

1 NCII follows guidance from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) in determining attrition bias. The WWC model for determining bias based on a combination of differential and overall attrition rates can be found on pages 13-14 of this document:


Fidelity of Implementation: Unconvincing Evidence

Describe when and how fidelity of treatment information was obtained: Reading Plus is a web-based intervention system delivered via the internet. The imbedded teacher management system provides a scheduling tool which allows the teacher or administrator to set schedule goals for students within the program in terms of number of sessions per week, length of sessions and length of intervention period. Teachers and administrators are given real-time feedback that assists them in creating an acceptable schedule that fall within the parameters given by the publisher. Detailed logs maintained within the system recorded each students’ time on task and performance on the various program components. We compared the students’ actual usage with the schedule set by the teacher and/or administrator and with this information we were able to explicitly assess each students’ level of fidelity

Provide documentation (i.e., in terms of numbers) of fidelity of treatment implementation: 100% of the students in the treatment group completed at least the minimum number of lessons suggested by the publisher. The students in the treatment group (n=40), completed an average of 71 lessons with a range of 40 lessons to 119 lessons. All work, including lesson completion dates, lesson format, reading rates, comprehension performance, and time on task are tracked within the Reading Plus management system.
The Reading Plus® intervention was scheduled for 20 weeks, 3 sessions per week, and 30 minutes per session. Prior to students beginning the implementation key administrators, lead teachers/reading coaches, and classroom teachers were trained on how to use the Reading Plus® management system. The management system is a key component of a successful intervention as it provides built-in school, class, and student reports that enforce effective schedule guidelines, support monitoring of progress, and help ensure program fidelity.
The second step to guarantee program fidelity was to ensure that all 40 students completed the required Reading Placement Appraisal™ (RPA™). This 20-minute placement test assesses independent reading level, rate, comprehension, and vocabulary level and establishes each student’s initial placement level within the program. Teachers physically monitored the administration of this assessment and reviewed the results using the Reading Plus® management system to be certain students had been accurately placed. After the RPA™ was completed Reading Plus® sessions began according to the aforementioned schedule.
Each session began with the perceptual accuracy and visual efficiency (PAVE™) warm-up activity. Each student was required to complete the PAVE™ warm-up before the program would allow them to continue to the next instructional component. Teachers received a detailed student summary report via the Reading Plus® management system, which provided monitoring feedback on PAVE™ that included total time spent in the activity, scan rate improvement, and accuracy with flash characters.
After completing PAVE™ students continued to the Structured Silent Reading (Guided Reading™ – GR™) lesson – the heart of the intervention. Students build fluency in GR™ by reading narrative, expository, and informational texts that are presented in both a guided silent reading format (a moving window guides students’ eyes across lines of print from left to right) and an independent reading format that dynamically changes the length of text segments and frequency of comprehension questions.  Students must be able to read appropriately leveled passages at the current content difficulty levels with research-based grade-appropriate rates and good comprehension before they advance to subsequent levels (Taylor, Frackenpohl, & Pettee, 1960).  The Reading Plus® system requires 70% correct responses on comprehension questions for a student to be considered successful.

Table 1: Reading Rate Grade-Level Norms


Norms w/ Comprehension




























Usual Aural/Oral Range:

The Reading Plus® system constantly reviews each student’s progress and evaluates reading, content level, comprehension, and lesson consistency with a complex algorithm of logic that assures students interact with the program as intended and do not simply “click their mouse”.  As students engage in Structured Silent Reading lessons the system monitors progress and will notify teachers if students are struggling. In some cases the system may even “suspend” a student until the teacher had a chance to meet with him or her. The system will alert teachers if students are demonstrating excessive reading rates and/or prolonged, inconsistent performance.  If students are suspended, the student cannot continue in the program until the teacher “unsuspends” the student.  Typically, the teacher would conference with the student to help determine the issue or directly observe the student completing a lesson to gain insight into the student’s struggles.

In a previous study, the publisher learned that students who engaged in at least 40 treatment lessons achieved significantly higher gains than students who did not (Rasinski, Samuels, Hiebert, Petscher, & Feller, 2009).  Therefore, the number of GR™ lessons was the variable used in this study.  However, the staff training, management system reports, and “suspension” logic all provide evidence to confirm that students were doing what Reading Plus® program developers intended during the time they were logged into the system on the computer.

Prior to students beginning the study, key administrators, lead teachers/reading coaches, and classroom teachers were trained by Reading Plus® Implementation Specialists. The training focused on effective Reading Plus® implementation, which included a detailed overview of the instructional components students were going to engage in for the duration of the study, scheduling and weekly assignments, as well as an in-depth overview of the teacher management system. The management system plays a key role in a successful Reading Plus® implementation as it provides built-in school, class, and student reports. These reports enforce effective schedule guidelines, support monitoring of progress, and ensure program fidelity by providing weekly benchmarks and milestone-related benchmarks for program use and performance status and improvements (e.g., content level increases, comprehension performance, and comprehension-based reading rate changes). Each teacher also had access to a management “dashboard” for their class that provided a quick overview as to whether their students were achieving weekly assignment and comprehension goals. Implementation Specialists continued to support school staff during the study. After a month of treatment each study site completed a follow-up training that continued to assist teachers in using the reports and progress reviews. For the duration of the entire study period Implementation Specialists were on call to provide on demand off-site and on-site progress monitoring support.

So, in conclusion, the system logic, management system reports, notification system, staff training, and implementation team support, all provide evidence to confirm that students were doing what Reading Plus® program developers intended during the time they were logged into the system on their computers.


Taylor, S. E., Frackenpohl, H., & Petee, J. L. (1960). Grade level norms for the components of the fundamental reading skill. E.D.L. Research and Information Bulletin, 3.ref_end

Measures Targeted: Data Unavailable

Measures Broader: Convincing Evidence

Targeted Measure Score type & range of measure Reliability statistics Relevance to program instructional content

Not applicable



Broader Measure Score type & range of measure Reliability statistics Relevance to program instructional content

Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT)

Scaled Scores

Internal-consistency reliability for the FCAT Sunshine State Standards: 0.90 (Cronbach’s alpha)

Reading Comprehension


Scaled Scores

Alpha reliability coefficient for reading section: 0.87
Reliability coefficients for alternate forms range in the low 0.90s for the total reading section.

Reading Comprehension


Number of Outcome Measures: 2 Reading

Mean ES - Targeted: Data Unavailable

Mean ES - Broader: Data Unavailable*u

Effect Size:

Targeted Measures

Construct Measure Effect Size

Broader Measures

Construct Measure Effect Size
Reading FCAT Post 1.10***,u
Reading SAT-10 Post


*        p ≤ 0.05
**      p ≤ 0.01
***    p ≤ 0.001
–      Developer was unable to provide necessary data for NCII to calculate effect sizes
u      Effect size is based on unadjusted means
†      Effect size based on unadjusted means not reported due to lack of pretest group equivalency, and effect size based on adjusted means is not available


Visual Analysis (Single Subject Design): N/A

Disaggregated Data for Demographic Subgroups: No

Disaggregated Data for <20th Percentile: No

Administration Group Size: Individual

Duration of Intervention: 30 minutes, 3 times a week, 20 weeks

Minimum Interventionist Requirements: Paraprofessional, 4-8 hours of training

Reviewed by WWC or E-ESSA: WWC

What Works Clearinghouse Review

Adolescent Literacy Protocol

Effectiveness: Reading Plus® was found to have potentially positive effects on comprehension for adolescent learners.

Studies Reviewed: 1 study meets standards out of 5 studies total

Full Report


Evidence for ESSA

This program was not reviewed by Evidence for ESSA.



Other Research: Potentially Eligible for NCII Review: 1 study

Reading Plus. (2008). Reading improvement report: Miami-Dade regions II and III. Huntington Station, NY: Taylor Associates/Communications, Inc.