Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Kathleen McCarville


Struggling students' poor reading and comprehension skills have continued to be a national problem. A New Jersey Department of Education report showed that of 311,628 middle school students tested in language arts, 26.2% scored at the partial proficiency level and 58.5% scored at the proficiency level. Further review of the middle schools in a local school district revealed that 57% of the students struggled to read and were unable to pass the Benchmark and New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) tests. The purpose of this study was to compare the NJASK test scores when the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)-alone was used and when the Sonday System reading program was added. Archival data from the 2010 and 2011 school years for 80 at-risk students were examined using a mixed-design (split-plot) ANOVA to evaluate whether addition of the Sonday System resulted in greater reading gains and improved students' NJASK scores. The study followed a quantitative, causal-comparative research design. Constructivist and behaviorist learning theories served as the framework. The results showed no significant improvement in the students' scores when the Sonday System was added to the DRA. There also was no evidence of greater year-to-year improvement in the NJASK standardized test scores when the DRA and the Sonday System were combined; however, by itself, the Sonday System was found effective in other schools. The findings suggest that it is not advisable to combine the DRA with the Sonday System. The professional development project generated from this study might lead to positive social change for administrators, teachers, educators, and stakeholders by increasing their awareness about the best ways to develop and implement reading programs that will have a positive impact on struggling readers.