United2Read – Digital Promise


Project Overview

Digital Promise, Learning Ovations, University of California – Irvine, and MDRC were awarded a five-year, $14.6 million Education Innovation and Research (EIR) expansion grant from the U.S. Department of Education to improve literacy outcomes under the United2Read initiative. The United2Read partners worked together to bring the Assessment-to-Instruction (A2i) Professional Support System, developed by Learning Ovations (now under Scholastic) to K–3 teachers in 59 schools across 20 school districts nationwide, with the goal of improving literacy skills and achieving third-grade reading proficiency. These 59 schools were part of an ongoing implementation and evaluation study that took place from 2018–2021. Since then, the A2i Professional Support System has expanded to schools in 11 additional districts as well as to community organizations, thus reaching over 58,000 students across more than 173 schools nationwide. Of the schools implementing the A2i Professional Support System, 82% have a student population where more than half of the students are from racial and ethnic minoritized backgrounds, and about two-thirds have at least 75% of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

United2Read Partnership chart that shows the connection of Learning Ovations, Digital Promise, mdrc, and UC Irvine

Project Focus

The centerpiece of the United2Read project was Learning Ovations’ A2i Professional Support System which combines technology and professional development to equip educators in individualizing literacy instruction for students in kindergarten to third grade. The algorithm embedded within the A2i technology uses data from its reading assessments and integrates and leverages districts’ existing curriculum to help teachers structure small groups based on learning needs and determine the right amount and type of literacy instruction (decoding and comprehension) for each student group. In addition to using the A2i technology to individualize instruction, teachers receive implementation support and professional development from a Literacy Outcomes Specialist from the solution provider.

Two high school students reading a book aloud to elementary students.

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

It’s through trusted relationships that district and school leaders, and especially teachers, are able to provide ongoing feedback to the solution provider and vice versa about implementation. Equally important is the willingness each party must have to tweak and modify their approach, practice–or even the technology–to improve expected outcomes. – School District Leader

Research Focus

During 2018–2023, Digital Promise conducted multiple implementation studies in a sample of 24 schools and three community organizations using the A2i Professional Support System. We gathered and elevated the perspectives of school and community stakeholders through a series of classroom visits, interviews, and focus groups with educators, school-based literacy coaches, school administrators, district leaders, and Literacy Outcomes Specialists supporting implementation. By consistently creating opportunities for educators to share their experiences using the A2i Professional Support System, our research team was able to better understand the successes and challenges schools and community organizations experienced when using the technology and sustaining instructional practices associated with it.

The study results that Digital Promise shared with Learning Ovations and participating school districts and community organizations in the study were critical to supporting continuous improvements that Learning Ovations made to the A2i technology and accompanying professional support to educators. Findings from these studies are included in the briefs linked below.

MDRC’s Final Evaluation Report

MDRC conducted the independent evaluation for the United2Read study, examining the relative effectiveness of different professional development models intended to increase efficiency in bringing A2i and its literacy instructional practices to schools across the nation. Their final evaluation report can be found here.

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Understanding the Research Behind A2i

Prior to the United2Read grant, A2i was developed based on years of research and development led by Dr. Carol Connor. Rooted in the Science of Reading, the A2i model differentiates the relative amounts of four types of reading instruction (code-focused, meaning-focused, teacher managed, and child managed) geared to students’ individual needs.

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What’s Next for A2i

After Learning Ovations was acquired by Scholastic in fall 2022, A2i became part of Scholastic’s menu of educational tools and resources. Plans continue to evolve around refining and expanding the A2i system to additional communities across the country.

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