A Meta-Synthesis of Qualitative Research on Reading Intervention Classes in Secondary Schools

by Katherine K. Frankel, Maneka Deanna Brooks & Julie E. Learned - 2021

Background/Context: In the past two decades there have been at least 10 quantitative reviews, syntheses, or meta-analyses focused on literacy interventions in secondary schools. To date, much of this research has focused on quantifiable outcomes such as reading test scores, and few efforts have been made to synthesize studies of adolescent literacy interventions that attend to how students themselves experience those interventions and what mediates their experiences, which previous adolescent literacy research suggests should be considered alongside other outcomes.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This meta-synthesis of qualitative research highlights additional factors that are overlooked when evidence of effectiveness is defined predominantly through assessment outcomes. It contributes insights from two decades of research on reading intervention classes (RICs), which are a long-standing approach to adolescent literacy intervention. We define RICs as compulsory, yearlong courses that supplement content-area classes with the goal of improving adolescents’ reading. Grounded in sociocultural theories of literacy and learning, our research question was: How do students experience and perceive RICs?

Research Design: We conducted a qualitative meta-synthesis of 21 studies published between 2000 and 2020 that (1) focused on secondary (grades 6–12) RICs in the United States and (2) included data related to students’ experiences and perspectives.

Data Collection and Analysis: We followed best practices in qualitative meta-synthesis, including assembling an author team composed of researchers with expertise in RICs, identifying a research meta-question, conducting a comprehensive search, selecting and appraising relevant studies, and coding and presenting findings using qualitative techniques.

Findings/Results: We found that youth’s own diverse understandings of themselves as readers and writers, combined with the extent to which they viewed their RICs as relevant, agentive, and facilitative of relationships, mediated students’ experiences and perceptions of their RICs. In addition, students across studies described placement policies and practices as confusing, frustrating, and embarrassing.

Conclusions/Recommendations: By providing a perspective that extends beyond test scores, the findings highlight some of the consequences of intervention placement policies and practices for adolescents. They also address the need for educational stakeholders to expand definitions of what counts as evidence of effectiveness to inform the future development of re-mediated literacy learning opportunities for adolescents that (1) rethink curriculum and instruction to affirm students’ literacy identities, histories, and capacities, and (2) reposition youth as literacy knowers and doers.

Despite extensive knowledge about adolescent literacy instruction (Christenbury et al., 2009; Hinchman & Appleman, 2017), secondary schools continue to grapple with how to support adolescents’ literacy learning. One common approach to assisting youth readers is through adolescent literacy interventions, which take many different forms, from stand-alone programs or classes to whole-school initiatives or instructional approaches. In this article, we focus on one long-standing form of adolescent literacy intervention: reading intervention classes (RICs), which have been part of the education structure since at least the mid-20th century (Brink & Witty, 1949). We define RICs as compulsory, yearlong courses that supplement content-area classes with the goal of improving students’ reading. In this paper, we share findings from a qualitative meta-synthesis (Paterson et al., 2009) of peer-reviewed research published during the first two decades of the 21st century that report on students’ experiences and perceptions of RICs.

Qualitative meta-synthesis is a methodological approach in which researchers systematically synthesize, analyze, and interpret findings from a select group of qualitative studies on a particular topic (Thunder & Berry, 2016). We situate this inquiry into RICs within sociocultural theories of literacy and learning, which locate youth’s multiple literacies and associated identities within the diverse contexts of their lives and attend to how they experience school-based literacy learning (Hall, 2010; Ivey, 1999; Jiménez, 2000; Kinloch, 2017). Research from this theoretical perspective supports an orientation to youth and their literacies that extends beyond institutionalized labels such as “struggling” reader or “at-risk” student (Alvermann, 2001; Enriquez, 2011; Vasudevan & Campano, 2009) to imagine new directions for supporting adolescents’ learning that contend with the particular social conditions that govern youth’s lives, literacies, and school experiences (Johnson & Sullivan, 2020; Lee, 1995; Tatum, 2008).

This sociocultural research tradition has a robust knowledge base to support inquiries into youth’s identities and multiple literacies; however, attention to these components of literacy learning is less prevalent in policy- and practice-focused conversations about adolescent literacy interventions, in general, and RICs, in particular. For instance, recently there have been at least 10 reviews, syntheses, or meta-analyses (e.g., Baye et al., 2019; Herrera et al., 2016; Scammacca et al., 2016) about the efficacy of a range of literacy instruction and intervention programs in secondary schools, including RICs, that measure effectiveness primarily through reading assessments. These reports then make recommendations for policy and practice by indicating which programs or instructional approaches (e.g., tutoring, cooperative learning) show the most promise based on the outcomes of these assessments. However, to date, few efforts have been made to synthesize studies of adolescent literacy interventions that attend to how students themselves experience those interventions and what mediates their experiences, which previous adolescent literacy research suggests should be considered alongside other outcomes (e.g., Ivey, 1999; Kinloch, 2017). This leaves a substantial gap in the field’s collective knowledge base about how to best support adolescents’ literacy learning now and into the future.

As literacy researchers who have studied RICs and engaged students to reflect on them, we undertook this qualitative meta-synthesis to address this research gap by centering students’ experiences and perspectives as key considerations for adolescent literacy interventions. Specifically, we investigate the research question: How do students experience and perceive RICs? Our findings point to additional factors that may be overlooked when evidence of effectiveness is defined primarily through assessment outcomes and that have important implications for adolescent literacy intervention research, policy, and practice.


Our research question is grounded in sociocultural theories of literacy and learning (e.g., Heath, 1983; Smagorinsky et al., 2020; Street, 1984); that is, we approached this project from the perspective that “the ways in which teachers or facilitators and their students interact…affects the nature of the literacy being learned and the ideas about literacy held by the participants, especially the new learners and their positions in relations of power” (Street, 2005, p. 418). Following this theoretical perspective, we conceptualize literacy as a set of ideological, contextualized practices rather than an autonomous skill (Street, 1984). Through our research question, we inquire into how students experience and perceive their RICs, including how those experiences and perceptions both shape and are shaped by policies, practices, and contexts.

To lend analytic precision to our approach to studying RICs, we adopt the distinction between remediation as remedy (Johnston & Allington, 1991) and re-mediation as activity (Alvermann & Rush, 2004; Cole & Griffin, 1983; Gutiérrez et al., 2009; Luke & Elkins, 2000). Remediation is derived from the word remedy and grounded in understandings of literacy as an autonomous skill. Remediation assumes that there are specific problems with adolescents’ reading (i.e., a deficit in necessary skills) that can be treated or fixed through a particular instructional solution (Johnston & Allington, 1991). The focus is on changing individuals. In contrast, re-mediation is derived from the word mediation and means to mediate again. Re-mediation views adolescents’ multiple literacies as part of the routine activities—or repertoires of practice (Gutiérrez & Rogoff, 2003)—in which youth participate in classrooms and with peers and family. These literacies are intertwined with specific socially, culturally, and historically situated contexts. Instead of changing individuals, the focus is on re-mediating instructional contexts, which include the systemic and structural discourses and policies that define and operationalize literacy in specific ways and for particular purposes (Gutiérrez et al., 2009). As an extension of Vygotsky’s (1978) work, which demonstrated that humans rely on both direct and indirect (i.e., mediated) interactions with their environment to make sense of their worlds (Engeström, 1987; Leont’ev, 1978), re-mediation provides a theoretical and analytical lens to examine how often-interacting mediating factors (e.g., texts, practices, relationships, identities, policies) shape youth’s experiences as they participate in literacy activities across the different contexts of their lives. This approach to literacy teaching and learning has implications for both policy and practice (Gutiérrez, 2009) and is reflected in our research question.

Our approach to studying RICs is supported by empirical sociocultural literacy research documenting how remedial approaches can perpetuate narrow understandings of individuals’ literacies by focusing on the acquisition of particular skills and strategies, often measured by assessment outcomes, without also examining or critiquing the broader learning contexts through which students are constructed as deficient (Alvermann, 2001; Kynard, 2008; McDermott & Varenne, 1995; Vasudevan & Campano, 2009). Moreover, there exists a formidable body of research on adolescent literacy that provides a theoretical and empirical foundation for the present study. This research has illuminated the complexities of what it means to use literacy within and across diverse contexts (Deroo & Watson, 2020; Ivey, 1999; Muhammad & Haddix, 2016), including how youth’s identities intersect with teachers’ beliefs and expectations in complex ways (Hall, 2010; Jiménez, 2000). Moreover, this research underscores that adolescents must navigate institutional policies and practices that delineate the social positions—that is, the “rights, obligations, and duties” (Harré, 2012, p. 193)—that are available to them as literacy learners in school (Lewis et al., 2007). In doing so, they enact various identities by discursively constructing those identities in relationship to and with others (de los Ríos & Seltzer, 2017; Enriquez, 2011; Kinloch, 2017). Therefore, this previous work suggests that both the act of placing students in RICs and the ongoing practices in which they engage as they participate in them can position students as particular kinds of readers (e.g., “struggling” versus “proficient”) (Alvermann, 2001). Classroom literacy practices that position youth in certain ways have been theorized as positioning practices (Frankel et al., 2018) that themselves impose particular rights and duties and have consequences for youth’s literacy learning (Franzak, 2006). These positioning practices are ideological and imbued with power; that is, as practices sanctioned by teachers, they replicate societal power dynamics in and beyond schools by determining what constitutes an acceptable literacy practice within a particular classroom context (Brooks, 2015; Street, 2005).

In the sections that follow, we draw on the remediation/re-mediation distinction to provide an overview of the educational policy context over the past two decades that, we argue, paved the way for increased attention to adolescent literacy interventions from a remedial orientation. Within this context, we review the results of previous syntheses of adolescent literacy interventions, which to varying extents included RICs. We discuss the implications of this previous work and the pressing need for the present study to inform future decisions about RICs and other literacy interventions intended to support adolescents.


Adolescent literacy interventions have gained increased attention in the United States over the past several decades. This increase followed the authorization of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and the accompanying Reading First initiatives that provided federal funding to schools and promoted the use of research-based instructional practices and programs focused on early reading (Gamse et al., 2008). As a counterpoint to this focus, a series of reports highlighted the importance of also attending to students’ reading beyond the primary years (e.g., Biancarosa & Snow, 2004; Kamil et al., 2008; Lee & Spratley, 2010; National Council of Teachers of English, 2007). These reports were soon followed by federal initiatives, most notably the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program authorized in 2010, and related policies and funding opportunities focused on adolescent literacy (Boulay et al., 2015). The publication of these reports occurred in the context of the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and related Response to Intervention (RTI) initiatives. Although much of the initial interest in RTI focused on early intervention of basic reading skills in elementary school, RTI also had implications for secondary schools, where instruction and intervention included an increased focus on supporting students’ reading across the disciplines (Brozo, 2009; Ehren et al., 2010).

As interest in and funding for new adolescent literacy initiatives grew, programs designed to support adolescents’ academic reading in secondary schools, including RICs, proliferated, as did research to evaluate their effectiveness. Following federal definitions of scientific research as explicated in the What Works Clearinghouse (2017) Standards Handbook and the Every Student Succeeds Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2016), much of the research to date has focused on quantitative evaluations of program effectiveness through experimental or quasi-experimental research designs. In the past two decades there have been at least 10 quantitative reviews, syntheses, or meta-analyses (Baye et al., 2019; Boulay et al., 2015; Edmonds et al., 2009; Graham et al., 2018; Herrera et al., 2016; Paul & Clarke, 2016; Scammacca et al., 2007, 2016; Slavin et al., 2008; Wexler et al., 2008) focused on literacy interventions in secondary schools, which to varying extents included RICs. Collectively, this body of work indicates that certain approaches to literacy intervention—particularly those that support students’ reading comprehension explicitly through text-based thinking, learning, and discussion (Edmonds et al., 2009; Herrera et al., 2016; Scammacca et al., 2007) and in collaboration with other readers (Slavin et al., 2008)—may have positive effects on adolescents’ reading achievement, as measured by reading test scores. However, scholars also have found that the positive effects of interventions have decreased over time, likely as a result of a combination of factors such as recent shifts from researcher-developed to standardized assessment measures (Scammacca et al., 2016). Other scholars have called attention to some of the limitations of existing reading intervention research (e.g., Reed et al., 2014).

Most recently, Baye et al. (2019) conducted a best-evidence synthesis of 69 studies that met the Every Student Succeeds Act’s standards for “strong” or “moderate” levels of evidence and that collectively evaluated 51 different reading programs for secondary students. Noting that all of the programs they reviewed included metacognitive strategy instruction and teacher professional development as core components, the authors organized the programs into 10 categories, including several categories that had statistically significant effects on adolescents’ reading achievement (i.e., tutoring, cooperative learning, whole-school approaches, writing-focused approaches, strategy-focused instruction). Of particular relevance to the present study, they further found that the cross-cutting factors of extra daily courses for reading (i.e., RICs) and the use of technology did not have significant effects on students’ reading achievement. In light of insights afforded by this and other quantitative syntheses, Reynolds (2020) recently called for an update to existing adolescent literacy practice guidelines (i.e., Kamil et al., 2008). He argued that a revision must reflect a conceptually inclusive definition of adolescent literacy and incorporate findings from more recent research, including qualitative research. By focusing on previously overlooked qualitative research on RICs, this meta-synthesis can contribute to these efforts.

Previous findings from the reviews cited above provide valuable insights and recommendations about specific programs and practices that can assist researchers, policymakers, and practitioners as they consider how to best support adolescents’ literacy learning. Yet, there are also limitations and potential consequences of basing recommendations solely on quantifiable outcome measures (Almasi et al., 2006; Greenleaf & Petrosino, 2009; Reynolds, 2020). Relying exclusively on such measures overlooks other information about literacy teaching and learning (e.g., students’ experiences and perspectives) that should be included in determinations about what constitutes effectiveness (de los Ríos & Seltzer, 2017; Franzak, 2006; Muhammad & Haddix, 2016; Vasudevan & Campano, 2009).


We conducted this study to build on previous findings and address the aforementioned limitations of existing reviews by offering insights from two decades of qualitative research on RICs, a body of work that, to date, has not been synthesized. By focusing on the experiences and perspective of students—which have not been adequately addressed in previous quantitative syntheses—we examine a body of literature that has been largely absent from previous work about adolescent literacy interventions, in general, and RICs, in particular. The insights gained from our synthesis highlight additional factors that have important implications for adolescent literacy policy and practice. Franzak (2006) describes this necessity in terms of a “‘zoom’ consciousness…to see both the big picture of the educational environment and the students at the center of our work” (p. 239). Taking into account multiple perspectives and scales to inform education policy also supports imagination of new possibilities. Dumas and Anderson (2014) argue that “our work should be responsive to policy deliberations and policy priorities, but should also offer critique…and a vision of policy as it could be” (p. 12). We therefore undertook this qualitative meta-synthesis to look across theoretical and methodological paradigms to consider how educators can better support adolescents’ literacy learning in school.  

This meta-synthesis utilizes a re-mediation framework to understand how identities, positions, and relationships interact with classroom practices and policies to mediate students’ experiences of RICs. It provides insights into what contexts for teaching and learning in RICs entail; how mediating factors such as identities, relationships, practices, and policies shape students’ experiences over time; and why those mediating factors and experiences matter for adolescents’ literacy learning and related educational policies and practices.


Qualitative meta-synthesis involves systematic synthesis, analysis, and interpretation of findings from a carefully selected group of qualitative studies clustered around a particular topic (Thunder & Berry, 2016). It is not a literature review. Like other forms of qualitative synthesis (e.g., Compton-Lilly et al., 2020), it attends to the nuances of individual studies while providing a broader view of common themes across them, with an eye toward how those themes can inform policy and practice. Qualitative meta-synthesis has an established presence in some healthcare fields, particularly nursing (Finlayson & Dixon, 2008; Paterson et al., 2009; Sandelowski et al., 1997). Although historically not prominent in education research, there are a growing number of qualitative meta-syntheses focused on education; for example, some of this recent work includes meta-syntheses of high-stakes testing and curriculum (Au, 2007), co-teaching in inclusive classrooms (Scruggs et al., 2007), and Black learners’ mathematics experiences (Berry & Thunder, 2012). As Erwin and colleagues (2011) explain:

The aim of metasynthesis is to integrate and interpret patterns and insights systematically across qualitative investigations while also maintaining the integrity of the individual studies....[It] offers a promising way to identify [stakeholder] wisdom and values [which are] essential components of evidence-based practice. (pp. 189–190)

Thunder and Berry (2016) similarly argued for the contributions of qualitative meta-synthesis to education, noting that it provides insights into attitudes, perceptions, and structures that inform how students experience teaching and learning. We were particularly interested in capturing the perceptions of students in relation to their experiences in RICs, so we selected qualitative meta-synthesis as our methodological approach because it allowed us to gain situated understandings of individuals’ experiences within as well as across studies.

We followed best practices in qualitative meta-synthesis (Paterson et al., 2009; Sandelowski et al., 1997; Thunder & Berry, 2016), including assembling an author team composed of researchers with expertise in RICs, identifying a research meta-question, conducting a comprehensive search, selecting and appraising relevant studies, and coding and presenting findings using qualitative techniques (Thunder & Berry, 2016). (See Appendix A, available at https://hdl.handle.net/2144/42597, for an overview of the methodological approach.) In our synthesis, analysis, and interpretation processes, we were attuned to the particularities of each individual study including, among other features, details about study participants (e.g., students, teachers), types of curricula, data sources (e.g., observations, interviews), and specific research questions or foci. This information supported us in maintaining nuanced representations of individual studies as we looked for common themes across them. To do this, we focused on contextualizing data within each study’s specific qualitative methodology and research foci, as we describe in the section on analysis procedures later in this paper. We addressed the validity of our analyses in four ways: descriptively through a comprehensive search and detailed descriptions of findings; interpretively through our co-constructed selection, appraisal, and analysis procedures; theoretically through reflective and reflexive commentary grounded in our conceptual framework; and pragmatically by attending to the implications and limitations of our findings for policy and practice (Sandelowski & Barroso, 2007; Thunder & Berry, 2016). In the sections that follow, we further explain our backgrounds and positioning, as well as our search, selection and appraisal, and analysis procedures.


Although guidelines for assembling a meta-synthesis research team vary (c.f., Finlayson & Dixon, 2008; Paterson et al., 2009), most methodologists agree that the team should be composed of individuals with qualitative research experience in the specific area of inquiry (Thunder & Berry, 2016). We have each conducted and published qualitative research studies in the context of RICs. We were motivated to pursue this study after discussing patterns within our own research and noting the predominance of reviews of quantitative research without corresponding syntheses of the qualitative research on RICs. Katherine (Kate) is a White female university researcher and teacher educator. Her specific interest in RICs stems from her previous experiences as a high school reading and writing teacher. She has conducted research in several different RICs in the United States. Maneka is a multiracial university researcher, teacher educator, and former high school teacher. Her research interests are at the intersection of adolescent literacy and bilingualism, which includes attention to RICs as a common intervention for adolescent English learners. Julie is a White female university researcher and teacher educator. Stemming from her prior experiences as a reading specialist and special educator in a public high school, she has researched RICs with an interest in the intersections among institutional, social, and instructional practices that mediate young people’s literacy.

As three scholars with qualitative research experience in the specific area of inquiry, several of our own studies conducted in the context of RICs are included in this qualitative meta-synthesis. Given our aforementioned methodological commitments—and following broader trends and precedents in the review literature, where authors frequently include their own work in both qualitative (e.g., Berry & Thunder, 2012) and quantitative (e.g., Slavin et al., 2008) research syntheses—this outcome is to be expected. We are aware that our individual and collective experiences and theoretically informed perspectives as secondary teachers and researchers influenced all aspects of our approach. In addition to explicitly naming these perspectives in our conceptual framework, we further addressed their influence as part of our search, selection and appraisal, and analysis procedures, which we describe in detail in the following sections.


We began this review at the turn of the century, when a series of reports on secondary reading (e.g., Biancarosa & Snow, 2004) were soon followed by federally funded initiatives (e.g., the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program). We included qualitative or mixed-method studies in peer-reviewed journals that were published or made available online between January 2000 and December 2020 that met the following criteria:

Focused on secondary (grades 6–12) RICs in the United States that:

Were supplemental to students’ content-area classes

Were intended for students who had underperformed based on some criteria (e.g., standardized test scores, grades, etc.)

Were not solely for students with disabilities or with English learner designations

Occurred during the regular school day

Included data related to students’ experiences and perspectives

First, we conducted independent searches of major research databases (e.g., Google Scholar; Education Source, which includes databases from EBSCO and H.W. Wilson) using multiple keyword combinations (e.g., intervention, literacy/reading/writing, secondary school/high school/middle school, students, qualitative). We conducted a second round of searches using combinations of keywords that included the names of particular intervention programs (e.g., Read 180), as well as additional keywords that came up during the first round of searches (e.g., remedial reading, adolescent). We further posted inquiries to academic networks on social media (e.g., Twitter) to solicit ideas about additional studies we may have missed in our previous searches. Finally, with the help of a research assistant, we conducted hand searches of established journals for articles published between January 2014 and December 2020. (See Appendix A, available at https://hdl.handle.net/2144/42597, for the complete list of 20 hand-searched journals.)


Our selection and appraisal procedures involved three levels of additional screening. First, we compiled a spreadsheet of all articles (N = 42) that met the aforementioned inclusion criteria based on a first-level screening, which involved reading the titles, abstracts, and keywords of each study. Next, we conducted a second-level screening by separately reviewing each of the 42 articles in more depth, including close readings of the methods and findings to ensure all studies met the inclusion criteria and to document key attributes of each study (i.e., participants, curricula, data sources, and research questions). We reviewed mixed-method studies by focusing on methods and findings related specifically to the qualitative data. We met to review our preliminary determinations and resolved discrepancies through discussion. At this point, we eliminated seven studies because they did not meet the aforementioned inclusion criteria.

We conducted a third-level screening using an appraisal tool that we adapted from Berry and Thunder (2012) (see Appendix B, available at https://hdl.handle.net/2144/42597, for the appraisal tool), which itself was adapted from Erwin et al. (2011). For studies authored by a member of our research team, we assigned a different team member to be the initial appraiser. Each study was reviewed and appraised by two members of the research team. We compiled a spreadsheet of all 35 studies that included our individual and collective ratings, observations, and questions about each study. We met to discuss these ratings and resolved discrepancies by each rereading the study in question and coming to consensus through discussion. Through this appraisal process, we eliminated an additional eight studies, either because they did not ultimately meet the inclusion criteria or because key components of the study (e.g., theory, methods) were not sufficiently articulated to ensure trustworthy conclusions. We created a table inclusive of the 27 studies that received an average appraisal score of 11 points or higher, indicating high overall standards of quality and credibility. We used this table to look across the particularities of the individual studies, including details about study participants (e.g., students, teachers), types of curricula, data sources (e.g., observations, interviews), and specific research questions or foci. Because some of these 27 studies reported on the same or similar data from a larger study, we decided to include only one written report from each larger study. Therefore, we removed an additional six studies. (See Appendix C, available at https://hdl.handle.net/2144/42597, for an overview of key features of the 21 studies included in the final corpus.)


Guided by our research question, coding of the final corpus of 21 studies of RICs occurred collaboratively across several phases of analysis. In the first phase, Kate and Maneka divided up the 21 studies and reread each study in its entirety at least once before conducting an initial round of coding and then meeting to review and discuss preliminary codes (Smagorinsky, 2008). In the second phase, Kate, Maneka, and Julie each reread and coded the same three studies selected from the larger corpus of 21 studies. We coded for and memoed about preliminary codes that we identified during phase one and recorded additional codes and broader themes that emerged during this second round of coding. We met to review codes and memos and to create a code list specific to our research question (see Table 1). Each of these codes included multiple subcodes. For example, identities as readers/writers included four subcodes: self-description, out-of-school identities/experiences, instructional histories, and student identity. These subcodes further included additional descriptors.

Table 1. Top-Level Code List: Students’ Experiences and Perceptions of RICs



Identities as Readers/Writers

Students’ experiences and views about themselves as readers and writers (identities), including how they have experienced reading and writing in the past (histories)


Students’ experiences and views about how and why they were enrolled in RICs, including their perspectives on placement policies and practices


Students’ experiences of RICs and views about what happens in RICs, including perspectives on relevance, agency, and relationships

Finally, in the third phase, we each coded a subset of study findings in Dedoose. We defined a finding as the raw data used to support claims related to students’ experiences and perceptions of RICs, as well as any discussion, interpretation, and/or analysis of the findings offered by the authors. For example, in cases where studies included data on teachers’ or administrators’ experiences or perceptions of RICs (either juxtaposed with students’ perspectives or located in a separate findings section), we did not include that portion of the study data or findings in our analysis. Each study was coded, reviewed, and verified by at least two members of the research team. As in the appraisal process, we assigned another member of the research team to be the initial coder for studies that we had authored. Instances of discrepancy or uncertainty were resolved through analytic group check-ins.

As is typical in qualitative research, most of the 21 studies we analyzed provided nuanced and multifaceted portraits of RICs. We were careful to code data from each study with the purpose of that study in mind (e.g., by reading studies in their entirety multiple times before and after coding); however, we also sought to account for the diversity and complexity of RICs both within and across studies. For example, studies that included information about youth’s experiences of RICs ranged from brief descriptions of their observed behavior to detailed accounts drawn from multiple data sources of how students participated in their RICs. We coded both of these types of data as curriculum/instruction-response to RICs and have captured that range in the findings, where we used in-text citations to document all studies that included evidence of the major themes before providing specific examples from individual studies.


Following our re-mediation framework, we address our research question (How do students experience and perceive RICs?) in three sections. Specifically, we show how (1) students’ identities and prior experiences as literacy learners, as well as policies and practices related to (2) placement and (3) instruction, mediated students’ experiences, especially when those experiences conflicted with their own understandings of themselves as readers and people.


Key contributors to how students experienced and perceived their RICs were youth’s own diverse understandings of themselves as readers and writers and their literacy histories.

Identities as Literacy Learners

Despite being placed in RICs, youth rarely described themselves holistically as “bad” readers or writers. Rather, in the 17 (out of 21 total) studies where students talked about themselves in relation to reading, most students articulated a detailed awareness of their own literacy practices and abilities, including the conditions under which they were more or less capable and engaged (Cantrell & Rintamaa, 2020; Cantrell et al., 2017; Frankel, 2016; Gerber et al., 2014; Ginsberg, 2020; Goering & Baker, 2010; Gomez et al., 2004; Greenleaf et al., 2001; Harmon et al., 2016; Learned, 2016; Masterson, 2020; O’Brien et al., 2007; Paterson & Elliott, 2006; Sarroub & Pernicek, 2014; Skerrett, 2012; Wexler et al., 2015; Wissman et al., 2012). For example, a student in Cantrell et al.’s (2017) study discussed the interconnections between his feelings of self-efficacy as a reader, engagement, and the context of instruction:

At the beginning of the year, I didn’t really do anything; I just acted up because the class didn’t make sense. If I want to I can be a really good reader and when I don’t want to, like hanging around friends I really won’t. But now, it’s important to actually do my work and do the work that I know how to do. (p. 65)

One of the students in Masterson’s (2020) study provided a similarly nuanced answer to a question about whether she saw herself as a reader, explaining, “No. I mean, yeah, I like to read, but it depends what it is” (p. 15). Moreover, when presented with opportunities to talk about their literacy abilities, students often discussed their out-of-school literacy practices and articulated the depth of their understanding of those practices as related to personal interests that were often overlooked in school contexts. For example, students in Cantrell and Rintamaa’s (2020) and Sarroub and Pernicek’s (2014) studies discussed the different kinds of reading in which they engaged outside of school, including reading novels, the Bible, magazines, newspapers, internet articles, letters, recipes, and other texts (e.g., within video games, on social media apps) linked to their individual interests. Whatever their specific understandings of themselves as readers, students across studies constructed identities as literacy learners that rejected monolithic descriptors such as “poor” or “struggling.” These descriptions of their own literacy abilities and identities revealed important insights about what youth valued and functioned to challenge institutional identities that positioned them as struggling with literacy.

Histories as Literacy Learners

When invited to talk about their literacy histories, particularly those histories related to past literacy instruction, students were similarly reflective. Students within and across 13 studies described their histories with literacy learning in school as variable, and in many cases as distinctly negative (Frankel, 2016; Ginsberg, 2020; Goering & Baker, 2010; Gomez et al., 2004; Greenleaf et al., 2001; Harmon et al., 2016; Houchen, 2013; Masterson, 2020; O’Brien et al., 2007; Sarroub & Pernicek, 2014; Skerrett, 2012; Wexler et al., 2015; Wissman et al., 2012). When students described their disenchantment with previous instruction, a common theme was feeling a lack of agency in their classrooms, which manifested in two ways. First, students reported that their past experiences with literacy learning were times when they were compelled to engage in literacy practices that held little meaning for them. For example, Skerrett (2012) shared one student’s expectations for a new class in light of her prior school experiences:  

Entering yet another reading class in her ninth grade year, Angelica expected her typical experience: boredom and lack of agency, albeit under the guidance of a “cool” teacher. “I thought at first that Miss [Molly] was going to be really cool and everything but the class is going to be really boring. I thought [that] because I saw all these books and I’m just like ‘great, it’s another reading class.’” (p. 70)

In this case, Angelica’s previous experiences of limited agency through repetitious instruction and lack of choice shaped how she viewed RICs more generally. Second, students reported previous experiences with literacy instruction that did not address the specific needs that they believed to be most relevant to them. For example, the student who was the focus of Ginsberg’s (2020) study explained her experience in a previous English course:

My biggest problem at the time was I could read a whole page and not have any idea as to what I read. And it would frustrate me because of these kids…they are reading, they are reading. They are getting it done. And I’m still having to reread that same page because I don’t remember what I read. (p. 13)

But, students’ histories with literacy instruction were not all negative. Although less frequent, some students described previous positive experiences such as “getting awards in my class for reading, like the most books read in a year” (Frankel, 2016, p. 45). Students’ largely negative experiences with literacy instruction stand in contrast to their complex identities as literacy learners, a contradiction further exacerbated by their placement in RICs, which we discuss next.


Complex and variable placement policies and practices, and related assessments, also contributed to how students experienced and perceived their RICs. In the 12 studies in which young people experienced and made reference to placement, they overwhelmingly expressed negative perceptions (Brooks & Rodela, 2018; Frankel, 2016; Ginsberg, 2020; Goering & Baker, 2010; Gomez et al., 2004; Harmon et al., 2016; Houchen, 2013; Learned, 2016; Masterson, 2020; O’Brien et al., 2007; Paterson & Elliott, 2006; Skerrett, 2012). Some students felt confused about unclear assessments and placement criteria and, at times, misunderstood by educators. Illustrative of such stances was this young person’s report from Paterson and Elliott (2016): “At first I didn’t really like this class because I’m not supposed to be in here. I did bad on test scores, and they thought I couldn’t read” (p. 384). In another example, the focal student in Skerrett’s (2012) study reported being enrolled in RICs even after passing the reading test. She reflected, “I guess since I’ve been in the reading class all my life, I guess they just thought it was regular for me….I don’t know why they put me in a reading class this year if I passed the test last year” (p. 69). Across studies, researchers documented students’ confusion about the role of assessments in placement decisions. In some cases, including the previous examples, students questioned those decisions rather than regarding the tests as self-evident measures of their reading abilities.

In addition to confusion, students also reported feeling stigmatized and embarrassed, if not also angry and resentful, about placement decisions. Houchen (2013) explained:

Students expressed sentiments of loss and resignation….During focus groups, five (out of 17) students commented on the loss they felt at trading an elective course such as Performing Arts, Weightlifting, or Art for Intensive Reading….Students also noted that they were teased by peers due to their enrollment. (p. 105)

In their study, Gomez and colleagues (2004) considered the implications of these kinds of experiences with deficit positioning for students. They reported the effects of labeling and tracking that appeared related to placement decisions:

All of the students evidenced feelings that they were “forced” to enroll in the reading course by people they did not know but who had authority in the school. As José and his classmates reported, being placed in a remedial reading course made them unhappy—they were labeled as remedial when they did not believe themselves to be remedial. (p. 401)

As indicated by students’ use of the term “forced” in the previous quotation, stigmatization and embarrassment were compounded by a lack of agency that youth reported experiencing through placement decisions. Moreover, some studies where youth talked about placement documented de facto tracking across other content-area classes (e.g., Learned, 2016) as well as tracking that spanned vertically across school years as students were placed in RICs year after year (e.g., Brooks & Rodela, 2018). With only a few exceptions (e.g., Goering & Baker, 2010), students across studies experienced confusion, frustration, and sometimes anger about the deficit positioning implied by placement in RICs, the purpose of which was unclear to them and antithetical to how most youth conceived of themselves.


Twenty studies included data about students’ experiences of curriculum and instruction in RICs (Bippert, 2019; Cantrell & Rintamaa, 2020; Cantrell et al., 2017; Frankel, 2016; Gerber et al., 2014; Ginsberg, 2020; Goering & Baker, 2010; Gomez et al., 2004; Greenleaf et al., 2001; Harmon et al., 2016; Houchen, 2013; Learned, 2016; Masterson, 2020; O’Brien et al., 2007; Paterson & Elliott, 2006; Patterson et al., 2010; Sarroub & Pernicek, 2014; Skerrett, 2012; Wexler et al., 2015; Wissman et al., 2012). The majority of studies reported on students’ highly variable experiences in RICs, with many students responding in different ways, even when using the same program or approach, within the same school, or within the same classroom. In subsequent sections we explore how students experienced and perceived classroom activities across three dimensions: relevance, agency, and relationships.


Eighteen studies addressed students’ perspectives about the relevance of curriculum and instruction in RICs to their current or future lives (Bippert, 2019; Cantrell & Rintamaa, 2020; Cantrell et al., 2017; Frankel, 2016; Gerber et al., 2014; Ginsberg, 2020; Goering & Baker, 2010; Gomez et al., 2004; Greenleaf et al., 2001; Harmon et al., 2016; Learned, 2016; Masterson, 2020; O’Brien et al., 2007; Paterson & Elliott, 2006; Patterson et al., 2010; Skerrett, 2012; Wexler et al., 2015; Wissman et al., 2012). Classes that students thought were relevant tended to be taught by teachers who had some level of flexibility, and where skills and strategies were contextualized within broader purposes and practices that students perceived to be meaningful. For example, Paterson and Elliott (2006) reported that, in a context where high school students served as tutors to younger students in elementary school, the tutors “began to modify strategies and create new ones” (p. 386), to see themselves as “capable of wielding positive influence” (p. 384), and to “become passionate advocates for their young partners” (p. 382), which “helped melt years of skepticism about reading and ease feelings of academic inadequacy” (p. 383). However, even under these largely positive conditions, not all students experienced the class in the same way. In this and other cases across studies, a teacher’s willingness and ability to adjust the instructional approach was key to students’ positive experiences.

Yet, within and across studies, the ways that students spoke of their courses as relevant to them varied. For example, a student in Greenleaf et al.’s (2001) study of Reading Apprenticeship described how one student saw the course as helping him to make sense of his history text: “like when you are reading and it doesn’t make sense, like try to restate it in your own words. Make questions so you can understand better. Now I read differently. I read in between the lines” (p. 81). In a different example from Harmon et al. (2016), a student shared a positive but more superficial description of the relevance of the course as helping him in “trying to pronounce new words” (p. 980). In a third example from Wexler et al.’s (2015) study of incarcerated youth, students reported the utility of classes centered around individualized instruction that they had not previously received in school. As one student explained, “I always wanted somebody to teach me to understand what I read….I learned a method here” (p. 117). As these examples demonstrate, students who reported positive perspectives on the relevance of their RICs did so in varied ways that revealed different understandings of the purposes of their RICs and the literacy skills and strategies necessary for success in and beyond school.

However, not all students spoke of their RICs as relevant to them. For example, when asked to compare his reading class to something else, a student in Masterson’s (2020) study compared it to opera: “boring, pointless.” (p. 10). In Ginsberg’s (2020) study, her focal student, who identified as “not really all that good in reading” (p. 14) expressed frustration alongside keen insights into why her class was not relevant to her particular reading needs. She explained,

I don’t really think that that class helped me…if they are going to have a class, have it where it goes based off of the child—what their problem is….I think that is the biggest problem when it comes to the school’s way of dealing with it, is they just think there is just one way that is just going to fix everybody, and it is not. (p. 15)

In these and other cases, students’ perceptions of RICs as boring, irrelevant, or misaligned with their actual reading needs contributed to their negative experiences.


Alongside relevance, 15 studies addressed the importance of agency to students’ experiences of curriculum and instruction in RICs (Bippert, 2019; Cantrell & Rintamaa, 2020; Cantrell et al., 2017; Frankel, 2016; Gerber et al., 2014; Ginsberg, 2020; Gomez et al., 2004; Greenleaf et al., 2001; Houchen, 2013; Learned, 2016; Masterson, 2020; O’Brien et al., 2007; Paterson & Elliott, 2006; Skerrett, 2012; Wissman et al., 2012). Agency in this sense included students’ positive experiences of classroom contexts that supported their autonomy, as well as instances when students refused instruction that restricted their independence. Specifically, students reported enjoying classes that provided them with opportunities for choice and that respected their existing abilities as readers. For instance, students in Cantrell et al.’s (2017) study talked about opportunities to “have input,” “decide what we read,” and “speak your mind” (p. 65) as key to their positive experiences. Moreover, researchers documented that students who were afforded opportunities to engage in multimodal literacy practices demonstrated agency as they navigated across a diversity of texts and activities (e.g., Gerber et al., 2014; O’Brien et al., 2007). Yet, even when teachers had flexibility to create their own instructional approaches that centered creativity and multimodality, how students engaged in them varied, even for the same student over time (e.g., Wissman et al., 2012).

On the other hand, students across numerous studies discussed their frustration when RICs limited their autonomy. In these cases, students described or enacted various ways of resisting curriculum that they perceived to be meaningless or insulting, or that did not acknowledge their capacities as readers. For example, during independent reading time, Learned (2016) observed that students “spent a long time searching for their books and avoiding reading. Keisha hid a cell phone behind her book and pretended to read. Calvin refused to read” (p. 1295). In her study, Masterson (2020) similarly recorded and coded “all attempts by students to steal time for their own purposes as tactical literacies” (p. 13), which ranged from reading unsanctioned books, to sleeping, to distracting other students in the class. In another context, Bippert (2019) observed students visiting external websites during computer-based reading instruction despite administrators’ perceptions that the program was engaging for students. Across studies, the extent to which curriculum and instruction supported students’ autonomy contributed to their experiences, with some students valuing opportunities for agency in their classes and others creating their own opportunities for agency in contexts where it was limited.


Finally, in 14 studies researchers highlighted students’ relationships with teachers as central to how they experienced and perceived their RICs, but the quality of these relationships varied across contexts (Cantrell & Rintamaa, 2020; Cantrell et al., 2017; Frankel, 2016; Gerber et al., 2014; Gomez et al., 2004; Harmon et al., 2016; Houchen, 2013; Learned, 2016; Masterson, 2020; O’Brien et al., 2007; Paterson & Elliott, 2006; Patterson et al., 2010; Skerrett, 2012; Wissman et al., 2012). Overall, however, a positive relationship with the teacher was something that students described as fundamental to a positive experience in the class. For example, some students in Harmon et al.’s (2016) study reported appreciating a good relationship with their teacher even in the absence of challenging content. For other students, however, it was the positive relationship with the teacher combined with rigorous content that led them to view the course positively. For example, a middle school student in Patterson et al.’s (2010) study described his course in this way: “It’s not just the strategies and the hard work. [The teacher] also puts that little bit of fun in there. I think it’s better than being in another fun class because I know I’m getting help and I’m not just going to sit there and fail” (p. 240).  For still other students, positive relationships were characterized by the co-construction of knowledge and regular feedback, and commitments to creating and maintaining engaging and meaningful contexts for literacy learning (e.g., Cantrell, 2017). In other words, students described being particularly engaged when they had a positive relationship with the teacher and perceived the class to be meaningful and relevant to their learning. Moreover, when relationships between teachers and students in RICs were positive, students were more willing to take risks and to bring their whole selves to the classroom. However, not all relationships were positive.

Some studies documented contentious relationships between students and teachers. Importantly, although some students’ relationships with teachers entailed explicitly antagonistic interactions (e.g., Learned, 2016), other studies described how students interpreted seemingly benign instructional approaches or interactions as ways of ridiculing their work and identities as literacy learners. For example, Frankel (2016) reported that one student in her study saw himself as a successful reader and therefore perceived his teacher’s routine check-in practices as a form of “harassing” that “made him feel dumb” (p. 47). In other words, by virtue of their enactment within RICs, certain instructional practices positioned students as deficient readers and writers.

Other studies reported that students had more difficult relationships with teachers who focused too much on decontextualized skill- and strategy-focused instruction, or who had narrow understandings of their students as (non)readers in need of remediation. Gomez et al. (2004) provided a vignette to illuminate what this looked like in one classroom, where the teacher’s hyper-focus on writing mechanics overshadowed a student writer’s powerful personal narrative. As the teacher and students discussed how to improve the paper’s mechanics, and in direct response to the teacher’s request for students to settle down,

Another student, Jasmine, states, “Cherise, they’re changing your whole story. They’re saying that there’s nothing right about it.”…Cherise’s head slumps to her desk. Dee, a boy sitting next to her, strokes her hair. Jasmine (to Ms. Smith) states, “It’s the fact that you’re changing her story so much, it’s not the fact that we’re not listening!” (p. 393)

In their analysis of this vignette, Gomez et al. (2004) called attention to the teacher’s focus on the mechanical aspects of Cherise’s writing as affecting her relationships with her students. By adopting a skills-focused perspective, they argued that the teacher “renamed the writing as deficient and brought the remedial nature of the class to the forefront” (p. 402). In this and other cases, students allied with their peers as a way to speak back to deficit positioning.


The research reported in the 21 studies that we reviewed for this qualitative meta-synthesis provides insights into how students experienced and perceived RICs. These insights reveal important information about youth themselves and their RICs that have not been captured in past quantitative syntheses and, therefore, have not been part of previous conceptualizations or discussions of effectiveness. Youth revealed multifaceted and dynamic literacy identities, histories, and abilities, and a keen understanding of the kinds of instruction that they valued. Youth who were enrolled in RICs that they perceived to be relevant and that acknowledged their agency and identities as students and people tended to report more positive experiences; however, what constituted a positive experience varied across studies and did not necessarily relate to deep literacy learning. When youth felt a lack of agency within a course or experienced an antagonistic relationship with the teacher, their perspectives on RICs were decidedly more negative. Overall, our findings indicate that students’ identities and histories as literacy learners, combined with the extent to which they viewed their RICs as relevant, agentive, and facilitative of relationships, all contributed to their experiences of their classes.

There was less variation in how students experienced placement in RICs. Regardless of the instructional configuration of a particular class, most students described these placements as unhelpful and embarrassing. For instance, some students reported confusion about placement policies and practices, including entry and exit criteria and assessments. Moreover, within the context of RICs, even seemingly benign instructional practices could exacerbate negative relationships when students perceived teachers to be ridiculing their work and identities. Finally, those students who felt they did not belong in RICs, or who had been repeatedly scheduled in RICs across multiple years, voiced frustration and anger with the deficit positioning that was reinforced by these placements.

These findings build from previous adolescent literacy scholarship (e.g., Franzak, 2006; Vasudevan & Campano, 2009) to trouble the predominant representation of students who are enrolled in RICs as categorically “struggling” readers, where students’ understandings of the complexity of their own abilities and identities as readers are, at best, oversimplified and, at worst, overlooked entirely. The findings point to an urgent need to pay more attention to the young people who are actually enrolled in RICs, beyond their test scores. Therefore, joining these findings with those of other scholars (e.g., Alvermann, 2001; de los Ríos & Seltzer, 2017; Johnson & Sullivan, 2020; Lee, 1995), we propose the following two broad recommendations for educational stakeholders seeking to re-mediate adolescents’ school-based literacy learning:


Rethink curriculum and instruction to affirm students’ literacy identities, histories, and capacities by focusing on understanding the conditions under which students perceive instruction to be relevant, agentive, and facilitative of positive relationships and using this information to make changes to existing approaches. Although teachers are central to this recommendation, they must be supported by administrators and through school policies that provide time and space for them to know and learn from their students beyond a narrow focus on prescribed curricula and standardized assessment outcomes.


Reposition youth as literacy knowers and doers by critically examining how and why any kind of placement happens and the potential consequences of that placement for youth’s literacy learning. Such examinations should include attention to the broader equity implications of placement decisions, as well as consideration of different ways of supporting students that position them as capable and agentive.

Acting on these recommendations requires that stakeholders partner with youth to determine what counts as effective and meaningful literacy learning, including close examination of the affective conditions that are central to students’ experiences (e.g., Deroo & Watson, 2020; Francois, 2013) and the consequences of placement in RICs for students’ literacy learning.


This study speaks to the need to use multiple sources of evidence to inform research, policy, and practice (Almasi et al., 2006; Dumas & Anderson, 2014; Franzak, 2006; Greenleaf & Petrosino, 2009; Gutiérrez, 2009). In this way, it is possible for researchers across diverse theoretical and methodological paradigms to be in productive conversation and to deepen understandings about how to support adolescents’ literacy learning in school. The benefits of a more integrated approach to research on RICs is evident in the insights that this meta-synthesis provides about students’ experiences and perspectives, which are necessary to contextualize Baye et al.’s (2019) conclusion that “secondary reading programs that provided an extra period of reading and those utilizing technology were no more effective, on average, than programs that did not provide these resources” (p. 133). To make sense of what the authors deemed a “surprising” finding, they speculated that, perhaps, “readers were unhappy about having to take a remedial reading class (instead of art, music, or physical education, in most cases) and were not motivated to once again work on material that they had difficulty with in elementary school” (p. 156). The findings from this qualitative meta-synthesis push beyond Baye and colleagues’ speculations. We found that many students interpreted their placements in RICs as stigmatizing. So, our findings call much-needed attention to how the conceptual basis for RICs (i.e., as stand-alone classes designed to improve students’ reading) and associated placement policies and practices contribute to remediation orientations and deficit positionings regardless of the instructional practices students encounter within their individual RICs. These orientations and positionings are socially and historically maintained through de facto tracking, highly variable student–teacher relationships, and youth’s overwhelmingly negative past experiences with literacy in school.

These findings across diverse research paradigms suggest that, in practice, RICs often do not achieve their intended objectives and can have negative consequences for students. As a result, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners need to address the impact of placement in RICs as a central topic for future research and a necessary area of concern for practical decisions about adolescents’ literacy learning. It is not enough to focus on assessment outcomes, or even what happens in the classroom. Educational stakeholders at all levels must critically examine the placement policies and practices that shape what counts as literacy in RICs, including how and why students are placed into RICs within and across institutional contexts. Finally, from a re-mediation perspective, there is a clear need for more research that investigates how students’ ethnoracial and linguistic backgrounds and related institutional positionings shape their experiences of RICs. The research included in this meta-synthesis alludes to the salience of these sociopolitical identities in placement policies and practices, but more focused work is needed.


More focused investigations of placement policies and practices may prompt a reconsideration of RICs as an appropriate method of supporting adolescents who are positioned as struggling with literacy in school. To this end, and beyond a rethinking of these policies and practices, we propose a shift in focus from studying and implementing remedial instructional approaches and programs to instead seeking to re-mediate literacy learning in ways that are responsive to youth’s experiences and perspectives, including attention to the socially, culturally, and historically situated conceptualizations of literacy that shape those experiences and perspectives (Gutiérrez et al., 2009; Kinloch, 2017; Street, 2005). Calls for such a shift are not new to the field of adolescent literacy (e.g., Vasudevan & Campano, 2009), but too often they are not represented in policy- and practice-focused conversations about adolescent literacy interventions. Moreover, and especially given past equity concerns related to intervention policies (e.g., Klingner & Edwards, 2006; Willis, 2019), as a field it is imperative that we continue to build on the ever-expanding adolescent literacies research base to imagine new ways forward for re-mediating literacy instruction to center youth’s identities, histories, and capacities as literacy knowers and doers.


References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-synthesis.

Almasi, J. F., Garas-York, K., & Shanahan, L. (2006). Qualitative research on text comprehension and the Report of the National Reading Panel. The Elementary School Journal, 107(1), 37–66.

Alvermann, D. E. (2001). Reading adolescents’ reading identities: Looking back to see ahead. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 44(8), 676–690.

Alvermann, D. E., & Rush, L. S. (2004). Literacy intervention programs at the middle and high school levels. In T. L. Jetton & J. A. Dole (Eds.), Adolescent literacy research and practice (pp. 210–227). Guilford.

Au, W. (2007). High-stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258–267.

Baye, A., Inns, A., Lake, C., & Slavin, R. E. (2019). A synthesis of quantitative research on reading programs for secondary students. Reading Research Quarterly, 54(2), 133–166.

Berry, R., & Thunder, K. (2012). The promise of qualitative metasynthesis: Mathematics experiences of Black learners. Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College, 3, 43–55.

Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C. (2004). Reading next: A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy. A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York (2nd ed.). Alliance for Excellent Education.

*Bippert, K. (2019). Perceptions of technology, curriculum, and reading strategies in one middle school intervention program. RMLE Online, 42(3), 1–22.

Boulay, B., Goodson, B., Frye, M., Blocklin, M., & Price, C. (2015). Summary of research generated by Striving Readers on the effectiveness of interventions for struggling adolescent readers (NCEE 2016-4001). National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

Brink, W. G., & Witty, P. A. (1949). Current practices in remedial reading in secondary schools. The School Review, 57(5/6), 260–266.

Brooks, M. D. (2015). “It’s like a script”: Long-term English learners’ experiences with and ideas about academic reading. Research in the Teaching of English, 49(4), 383–406.

*Brooks, M. D., & Rodela, K. C. (2018). Why am I in reading intervention? A dual analysis of entry and exit criteria. The High School Journal, 102(1), 72–93.

Brozo, B. G. (2009). Response to Intervention or responsive instruction? Challenges and possibilities of Response to Intervention for adolescent literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(4), 277–281.

*Cantrell, S. C., Pennington, J., Rintamaa, M., Osborne, M., Parker, C., & Rudd, M. (2017). Supplemental literacy instruction in high school: What students say matters for reading engagement. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 33(1), 54–70.

*Cantrell, S. C., & Rintamaa, M. (2020). The nature of rural high school students’ reading engagement. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 36(4), 297–319.

Christenbury, L., Bomer, R., & Smagorinsky, P. (2009). Handbook of adolescent literacy research. Guilford.

Cole, M., & Griffin, P. (1983). A socio-historical approach to re-mediation. The Quarterly Newsletter of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, 5(4), 69–74.

Compton-Lilly, C. F., Rogers, R. L., & Ellison, T. L. (2020). A meta-ethnography of family literacy scholarship: Ways with metaphors and silence. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(2), 271–289.

de los Ríos, C. V., & Seltzer, K. (2017). Translanguaging, coloniality, and English classrooms: An exploration of two bicoastal urban classrooms. Research in the Teaching of English, 52(1), 55–76.

Deroo, M. R., & Watson, V. W. (2020). “Air I breathe”: Songwriting as literacy practices of remembrance. Journal of Literacy Research, 52(2), 158–179.

Dumas, M. J., & Anderson, G. (2014). Qualitative research as policy knowledge: Framing policy problems and transforming education from the ground up. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22(11), 1–21.

Edmonds, M. S., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Reutebuch, C., Cable, A., Tackett, K. K., & Schnakenberg, J. W. (2009). A synthesis of reading interventions and effects on reading comprehension outcomes for older struggling readers. Review of Educational Research, 79(1), 262–300.

Ehren, B. J., Deshler, D. D., & Graner, P. S. (2010). Using the Content Literacy Continuum as a framework for implementing RTI in secondary schools. Theory into Practice, 49(4), 315–322.

Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Orienta-K.

Enriquez, G. (2011). Embodying exclusion: The daily melancholia and performative politics of struggling early adolescent readers. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 10(3), 90–112.

Erwin, E. J., Brotherson, M. J., & Summers, J. A. (2011). Understanding qualitative metasynthesis: Issues and opportunities in early childhood intervention research. Journal of Early Intervention, 33(3), 186–200.

Finlayson, K., & Dixon, A. (2008). Qualitative meta-synthesis: A guide for the novice. Nurse Researcher, 15(2), 59–71.

Francois, C. (2013). Reading in the crawl space: A study of an urban school’s literacy-focused community of practice. Teachers College Record, 115(5), 1–35.

*Frankel, K. K. (2016). The intersection of reading and identity in high school literacy intervention classes. Research in the Teaching of English, 51(1), 37–59.

Frankel, K. K., Fields, S. S., Kimball-Veeder, J., & Murphy, C. R. (2018). Positioning adolescents in literacy teaching and learning. Journal of Literacy Research, 50(4), 446–477.

Franzak, J. K. (2006). Zoom: A review of the literature on marginalized adolescent readers, literacy theory, and policy implications. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 209–248.

Gamse, B. C., Jacob, R. T., Horst, M., Boulay, B., & Unlu, F. (2008). Reading First impact study final report executive summary (NCEE 2009-4039). National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

*Gerber, H. R., Abrams, S. S., Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Benge, C. L. (2014). From Mario to FIFA: What qualitative case study research suggests about games-based learning in a US classroom. Educational Media International, 51(1), 16–34.

*Ginsberg, R. (2020). Dueling narratives of a reader labeled as struggling: Positioning, emotion, and power within four differing English course contexts. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 25(1), 1–27.

*Goering, C. Z., & Baker, K. F. (2010). “Like the whole class has reading problems”: A study of oral reading fluency activities in a high intervention setting. American Secondary Education, 39(1), 61–77. 

*Gomez, M. L., Stone, J. C., & Hobbel, N. (2004). Textual tactics of identification. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 35(4), 391–410.

Graham, S., Liu, X., Bartlett, B., Ng, C., & Harris, K. R. (2018). Reading for writing: A meta-analysis of the impact of reading interventions on writing. Review of Educational Research, 88(2), 243–284.

Greenleaf, C., & Petrosino, A. (2009). Response to Slavin, Cheung, Groff, and Lake (2008). Effective reading programs for middle and high schools: A best-evidence synthesis. Reading Research Quarterly, 44(4), 349–354.

*Greenleaf, C. L., Schoenbach, R., Cziko, C., & Mueller, F. L. (2001). Apprenticing adolescent readers to academic literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 71(1), 79–129.

Gutiérrez, K. D. (2009). A comprehensive federal literacy agenda: Moving beyond inoculation approaches to literacy policy. Journal of Literacy Research, 41(4), 476–483.

Gutiérrez, K. D., Morales, P. Z., & Martinez, D. C. (2009). Re-mediating literacy: Culture, difference, and learning for students from nondominant communities. Review of Research in Education, 33, 212–245.

Gutiérrez, K. D., & Rogoff, B. (2003). Cultural ways of learning: Individual traits or repertoires of practice. Educational Researcher, 32(5), 19–25.

Hall, L. A. (2010). The negative consequences of becoming a good reader: Identity theory as a lens for understanding struggling readers, teachers, and reading instruction. Teachers College Record, 112(7), 1792–1829.

*Harmon, J., Wood, K., Smith, K., Zakaria, N., Ramadan, K., & Sykes, M. (2016). Teaching and learning in high school reading classes: Perspectives of teachers and students. Reading Psychology, 37(7), 962–994.

Harré, R. (2012). Positioning theory: Moral dimensions of social-cultural psychology. In J. Valsiner (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology (pp. 191–206). Oxford University Press.

Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge University Press.

Herrera, S., Truckenmiller, A. J., & Foorman, B. R. (2016). Summary of 20 years of research on the effectiveness of adolescent literacy programs and practices (REL 2016-178). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast.


Hinchman, K. A., & Appleman, D. A. (Eds.). (2017). Adolescent literacies: A handbook of practice-based research. Guilford.

*Houchen, D. (2013). “Stakes is high”: Culturally relevant practitioner inquiry with African American students struggling to pass secondary reading exit exams. Urban Education, 48(1), 92–115.

Ivey, G. (1999). A multicase study in the middle school: Complexities among young adolescent readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 34(2), 172–192.

Jiménez, R. T. (2000). Literacy and the identity development of Latina/o students. American Educational Research Journal, 37(4), 971–1000.

Johnson, L. P., & Sullivan, H. (2020). Revealing the human and the writer: The promise of a humanizing writing pedagogy for Black students. Research in the Teaching of English, 54(4), 418–438.

Johnston, P., & Allington, R. (1991). Remediation. In R. Barr, M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, & P. D. Pearson (Eds.), The handbook of reading research (pp. 984–1012). Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J., Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., & Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices: A practice guide (NCEE #2008-4027).

National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc

Kinloch, V. (2017). “You ain’t making me write”: Culturally sustaining pedagogies and Black youths’ performances of resistance. In D. Paris & H. S. Alim (Eds.), Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and learning for justice in a changing world (pp. 25–42). Teachers College Press.

Klingner, J. K., & Edwards, P. A. (2006). Cultural considerations with response to intervention models. Reading Research Quarterly, 41(1), 108–117.

Kynard, C. (2008). Writing while Black: The colour line, Black discourses and assessment in the institutionalization of writing instruction. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 7(2), 4–34.

*Learned, J. E. (2016). “The behavior kids”: Examining the conflation of youth reading difficulty and behavior problem positioning among school institutional contexts. American Educational Research Journal, 53(5), 1271–1309.

Lee, C. D. (1995). A culturally based cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching African American high school students skills in literary interpretation. Reading Research Quarterly, 30(4), 608–630.

Lee, C. D., & Spratley, A. (2010). Reading in the disciplines: The challenges of adolescent literacy. Final Report from Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy.

Leont’ev, A. N. (1978). Activity, consciousness, and personality. Prentice Hall.

Lewis, C., Enciso, P., & Moje, E. B. (2007). Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, agency, and power. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Luke, A., & Elkins, J. (2000). Re/mediating adolescent literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 43(5), 396–398.

*Masterson, J. E. (2020). Reading in “purgatory”: Tactical literacies in a remedial reading class. Reading Research Quarterly. Advance online publication: doi:10.1002/rrq.373

McDermott, R., & Varenne, H. (1995). Culture as disability. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 26(3), 324–348.

Muhammad, G. E., & Haddix, M. (2016). Centering Black girls’ literacies: A review of literature on the multiple ways of knowing of Black girls. English Education, 48(4), 299–336.

National Council of Teachers of English. (2007). Adolescent literacy: A policy research brief. https://cdn.ncte.org/nctefiles/resources/positions/chron0907researchbrief.pdf

*O’Brien, D., Beach, R., & Scharber, C. (2007). “Struggling” middle schoolers: Engagement and literate competence in a reading writing intervention class. Reading Psychology, 28(1), 51–73.

Paterson, B. L., Dubouloz, C.-J., Chevrier, J., Ashe, B., King, J., & Moldoveanu, M. (2009). Conducting qualitative metasynthesis research: Insights from a metasynthesis project. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 83(3), 22–33.

*Paterson, P. O., & Elliott, L. N. (2006). Struggling reader to struggling reader: High school students’ responses to a crossage tutoring program. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49(5), 378–389.

*Patterson, J. A., Eubank, H., Rathbun, S. E., & Noble, S. (2010). Making sense of an urban district’s adolescent literacy reform. NASSP Bulletin, 94(3), 227–246.

Paul, S.-A. S., & Clarke, P. J. (2016). A systematic review of reading interventions for secondary school students. International Journal of Educational Research, 79, 116–127.

Reed, D. K., Cummings, K. D., Schaper, A., & Biancarosa, G. (2014). Assessment fidelity in reading intervention research: A synthesis of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 84(2), 275–321.

Reynolds, D. (2020). Of research reviews and practices guides: Translating rapidly growing research on adolescent literacy into updated practice recommendations. Reading Research Quarterly. Advance online publication. doi:10.1002/rrq.314

Sandelowski, M., & Barroso, J. (2007). Handbook for synthesizing qualitative research. Springer.

Sandelowski, M., Docherty, S., & Emden, C. (1997). Qualitative metasynthesis: Issues and techniques. Research in Nursing & Health, 20, 365–371.

*Sarroub, L. K., & Pernicek, T. (2016). Books, boys, and boredom: A case of three high school boys and their encounters with literacy. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 32(1), 27–55.

Scammacca, N. K., Roberts, G. J., Choo, E., Williams, K. J., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S. R., & Carroll, M. (2016). A century of progress: Reading interventions for students in grades 4–12, 1914–2014. Review of Educational Research, 86(3), 756–800.

Scammacca, N., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Edmonds, M., Wexler, J., Reutebuch, C. K., & Torgesen, J. K. (2007). Interventions for adolescent struggling readers: A meta-analysis with implications for practice. RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., & McDuffie, K. A. (2007). Co-teaching in inclusive classrooms: A metasynthesis of qualitative research. Exceptional Children, 73(4), 392–416.

*Skerrett, A. (2012). “We hatched in this class”: Repositioning of identity in and beyond a reading classroom. The High School Journal, 95(3), 62–75. 

Slavin, R. E., Cheung, A., Groff, C., & Lake, C. (2008). Effective reading programs for middle and high schools: A best-evidence synthesis. Reading Research Quarterly, 43(3), 290–322.

Smagorinsky, P. (2008). The method section as conceptual epicenter in constructing social science research reports. Written Communication, 25(3), 389–411.

Smagorinsky, P., Guay, M., Lewis Ellison, T., & Willis, A. I. (2020). A sociocultural perspective on readers, reading, reading instruction and assessment, reading policy, and reading research. In E. B. Moje, P. P. Afflerbach, P. Enciso, & N. K. Lesaux (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. V, pp. 57–75). Routledge. 

Street, B. V. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge University Press.

Street, B. V. (2005). At last: Recent applications of New Literacy Studies in educational contexts. Research in the Teaching of English, 39(4), 417–423.

Tatum, A. W. (2008). Toward a more anatomically complete model of literacy instruction: A focus on African American male adolescents and texts. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 155–180.

Thunder, K., & Berry, R. Q. (2016). The promise of qualitative metasynthesis for mathematics education. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 47(4), 318–337.

U.S. Department of Education. (2016). Using evidence to strengthen education investments. https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/guidanceuseseinvestment.pdf

Vasudevan, L., & Campano, G. (2009). The social production of adolescent risk and the promise of adolescent literacies. Review of Research in Education, 33, 310–353.

Vygotsky, L. S.  (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.

*Wexler, J., Reed, D. K., & Sturges, K. (2015). Reading practices in the juvenile correctional facility setting: Incarcerated adolescents speak out. Exceptionality, 23(2), 100–123. 

Wexler, J., Vaughn, S., Edmonds, M., & Reutebuch, C. K. (2008). A synthesis of fluency interventions for secondary struggling readers. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 21(4), 317–347.

What Works Clearinghouse. (2017). Standards handbook, version 4.0. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/referenceresources/wwc_standards_handbook_v4.pdf

Willis, A. I. (2019). Race, Response to Intervention, and reading research. Journal of Literacy Research, 51(4), 394–419.

*Wissman, K., Costello, S., & Hamilton, D. (2012). ‘You’re like yourself’: Multimodal literacies in a reading support class. Changing English, 19(3), 325–338.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 8, 2021, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23773, Date Accessed: 10/24/2021 6:08:49 PM

Purchase Reprint Rights for this article or review