This research leverages improvement science principles and rigorous scholarly design-based implementation research to delve into the efficacy of reading interventions for secondary students, a previously underexplored domain. The first iteration of this study critically assessed the present state of RtI practices within a rural East Texas school, while the subsequent iteration was an evaluative exploration of implementing a phonics-based reading intervention. The second iteration investigates the impact of the Reading Horizons Elevate (RHE) intervention program on reading outcomes of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students within a turnaround middle school in East Texas. This study focuses on the relevance of design-based implementation research in determining the potential of such interventions. This mixed-method approach, comprised of qualitative and quantitative data collection strategies, seeks to understand the alignment between teacher perceptions of using evidence-based strategies and programs in reading intervention for struggling readers. A key performance indicator for this exploration was STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness). Preliminary findings suggest empirical gains through the intervention, yet its scalability remains a subject for future investigation. This study faced several limitations, including constraints related to participant sampling, with students selected based on prior year data and a small sample size from a convenience sample, as well as challenges associated with the intervention's design and delivery, like the rigid intervention schedule, exclusive use of Orton Gillingham-based dyslexia program symbols, and reported low student engagement during specific lesson phases. Additionally, the absence of a control group and potential researcher bias might have influenced the study's reliability, validity, and generalizability of findings.

Date of publication

Fall 2023

Document Type

Dissertation (Local Only Access)



Persistent identifier


Committee members

Joanna Neel, Julie Delello, Wesley Hickey


Doctorate of Education in School Improvement

Included in

Education Commons



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