Open Court is a structured Literacy program created by Marion Joseph. The program includes a scaffolded curriculum starting with phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and letter recognition, slowly evolving over time to focus on comprehension, inquiry, vocabulary and spelling. The program includes the essential instructional types of: Direct, individualized scaffolded, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and spelling.
As I always try to state, to properly assess the efficacy of a pedagogical program or concept, we should look for a peer reviewed meta-analysis. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, no such meta-analysis exists. For this reason, I conducted my own non-peer reviewed meta-analysis below. I included all studies found on Education Source, which included a control group, and had sufficient data to calculate an effect size. In the case of Open Court, the original authors had calculated their own effect sizes and I accepted those results, as is.
Skindrud 2006: This RCT study included 5694 students, examined grades 1-4, and lasted 2 years.
Boreman 2008: This RCT study included 308 students, examined grades 1-5, and lasted 1 year.
Stockard 2010: This quasi-experimental study was looking at 4572 students, examined grades 1 and 5, and lasted 2 years.
Vaden-Kiernan 2018: This RCT study was looking at 1070 students, examined grads K-5, and lasted 2 years.
For reasons, I cannot quite deduce, the Open Court program results were definitely low. Outcomes were below statistical significance for all outcomes except, reading, grade 3, and grade 4. No outcomes were high. That being said, most of the program's principles were evidence-based and I have no meaningful explanation for the low outcomes. One possible deflating factor is the study quality. The study quality was very high, which could have deflated results slightly. One thing about the program I do question is the current pacing. I think the program has too many components in the primary years and could benefit from being more focused on foundational content during that time. When I reached out to teachers, who had used the program, many of them cited concerns with the program being too scripted and not engaging.
Final Grade: B
Most of the program principles are well evidenced, within the meta-analysis literature.
Qualitative Grade: 9/10
The program includes the following essential instructional types: Direct, individualized, scaffolded, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and spelling.
Written by Nathaniel Hansford
Last Edited: 2022-07-24
Skindrud, K., & Gersten, R. (2006). An Evaluation of Two Contrasting Approaches for Improving Reading Achievement in a Large Urban District. Elementary School Journal, 106(5), 389–407. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lakeheadu.ca/10.1086/505437
Stockard, J. (2010). Promoting Reading Achievement and Countering the “Fourth-Grade Slump”: The Impact of Direct Instruction on Reading Achievement in Fifth Grade. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 15(3), 218–240. https://doi.org/10.1080/10824669.2010.495687
Vaden-Kiernan, M., Borman, G., Caverly, S., Bell, N., Sullivan, K., Ruiz de Castilla, V., Fleming, G., Rodriguez, D., Henry, C., Long, T., & Hughes Jones, D. (2018). Findings From a Multiyear Scale-Up Effectiveness Trial of Open Court Reading. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 11(1), 109–132. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lakeheadu.ca/10.1080/19345747.2017.1342886
Borman, G. D., Dowling, N. M., & Schneck, C. (2008). A Multisite Cluster Randomized Field Trial of Open Court Reading. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30(4), 389–407. https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373708326283