Research & Impact

Reading Apprenticeship: Writing Connections

The Reading Apprenticeship: Writing Connections project was awarded a three-year Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop and test a blended online and in-person program of teacher professional development. This project will prepare school-based teams of middle school teachers to integrate reading, writing, and subject area instruction in science, history, and English language arts.

The project builds on the Reading Apprenticeship program of professional development—which has been shown in randomized controlled studies to boost students’ reading comprehension and subject area learning—by adding an increased focus on the synergy between deep subject area reading and writing.

During the grant period, the project will reach 1,000 teachers and 60,000 students. Participating teachers will be drawn from 180 schools in regions where Reading Apprenticeship has an existing presence through two federal Investing in Innovation grants (RAISE and iRAISE). In particular, middle schools that feed into high schools in the RAISE or iRAISE projects will be encouraged to participate as a way to amplify the effect on adolescents who experience a reading and writing apprenticeship over an extended period.

The format of the blended professional development also incorporates a deliberate design to develop teacher leaders at each site, reflecting the importance of building local capacity to support teachers’ ongoing professional learning and to disseminate it beyond the group of 1,000 teachers attending the training. We project that another 2,000 teachers will be involved through these learning communities.

An external evaluation at 28 schools will use a mixed-methods approach. This will include a randomized controlled trial to investigate the impact of the project on teacher practices, student use of literacy strategies and academic behaviors and dispositions, and student achievement. In addition, the evaluation team will provide formative feedback on teachers’ training and implementation of Reading Apprenticeship strategies.

Research Questions

The external evaluation to be conducted by IMPAQ International will address these research questions:

  1. To what extent do teachers participating in the Reading Apprenticeship: Writing Connections professional development change their instructional practices to include use of strategies and approaches described in the Reading Apprenticeship model’s theory of change?
  2. To what extent do students in Reading Apprenticeship: Writing Connections classes use learning strategies identified as high-leverage disciplinary literacy strategies more than their comparison peers?
  3. To what extent do students in Reading Apprenticeship: Writing Connections classrooms show more positive academic behaviors and dispositions (improved writer/reader identity, increased writing amount and variety of text reading for school) than their comparison peers?
  4. What are the effects of Reading Apprenticeship: Writing Connections on students’ reading and writing achievement as measured by state standardized test scores?
  5. To what extent do students in Reading Apprenticeship: Writing Connections classes achieve more reading and writing growth than their comparison peers as measured by a pre/post assessment developed by ETS?


Intervention: The intervention for the randomized controlled study is seven days of face-to-face professional development plus an average of four hours per month of online professional development and on-site monthly meetings facilitated by a teacher leader (an estimated total of 72 hours of professional development).

Design and Sample: The study uses a group randomized experimental design with a total of 28 participating schools from Pennsylvania and Indiana. Fourteen schools will receive the training in the first year of implementation and 14 will receive the training in the following year. An average of four grade 8 teachers from each school and their grade 8 students will participate.


Complete study findings will be available at the end of the three-year project, in 2016.