Randomized Controlled Trial: Headsprout as Supplementary Program for Beginning Readers

Research Applies to: Headsprout

About This Research

This randomized controlled trial examined the effects of Headsprout when used as a supplemental literacy program for mainstream students who are beginning readers. Three different reading assessments were used to measure changes in students’ reading skills, yielding an ample view of the program’s effects in areas ranging from accuracy to fluency.

ESSA Evidence Level: Strong

This study meets strong evidence standards because it used a well-controlled experimental design and produced statistically significant positive effects. This study meets the sample size and multi-site requirements for strong evidence when considered cumulatively with other similar studies.*

Main Findings

Students who used Headsprout had higher scores across all the measures used to assess early reading skills compared to students in the control condition. These differences were statistically significant with large effect sizes for reading accuracy and word recognition.


Participants were 51 six- to seven-year-old students from two mainstream schools in North Wales.

Study Design and Procedures

This study used a randomized controlled trial design in which participants were randomly assigned to either the Headsprout group or a control group. Students in the Headsprout group completed Headsprout episodes for up to 45 minutes each school day for eight months. During that time, students in the control group completed semi-structured activities of their choice, which included literacy, math, and general problem-solving activities. The Diagnostic Reading Analysis, the Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) subtest of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), and the Word Recognition and Phonic Skills (WRaPS) assessment were used as pre- and posttests.


Tyler, E. J., Hughes, J. C., Beverley, M., & Hastings, R. P. (2015). Improving early reading skills for beginning readers using an online programme as supplementary instruction. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 30(3), 281-294.

*Source: U.S. Department of Education (2016). Non-regulatory guidance: Using evidence to strengthen education investments. Washington, DC: Author.

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