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iStation Reading Program Description:

The Company describes the program as follows: 

“Istation’s blended learning approach uses research-based assessments and a computer-adaptive curriculum to drive powerful student growth.

Firmly rooted in the science of reading, Istation’s reading assessment and instruction covers the National Reading Panel’s “Big Five” foundational reading skills:

  • phonemic awareness

  • phonics

  • fluency

  • vocabulary

  • reading comprehension” 

The program is individualized based on the program’s assessment. “As students move through the instruction, they have opportunities to engage with increasingly complex texts and gamified activities that are on their grade level. Teachers can target interventions in whole- or small-group instruction to meet the needs of all learners.”

Other Reviews:

Evidence for ESSA (John Hopkins) reviewed 1 study for iStation. The study rigor was ranked as moderate, included 1234 students and showed a mean effect size of .06. According to Cohen's guide to effect sizes, the Evidence for ESSA review would suggest negligible benefits. 



A systematic search was conducted for iStation reading program studies, independently by both the first and second author. Searches were conducted on Google, the company website, What Works Clearinghouse, the ERIC database, and the Education Source database. Studies that were not of an experimental nature or did not have control groups, or did not have sufficient reporting to find effect sizes were excluded. In the initial search 19 papers were found. 7 papers were initially excluded, based on abstracts. After reading the studies, 1 paper was excluded for insufficient reporting (Cook, 2021), 1 study was excluded for not having a control group (Luo, 2017), and one study was excluded, because it was a duplicate). All found experimental studies with control groups and sufficient reporting to find effect sizes were included. Both the first and second author independently coded studies. The first, second, and third authors calculated effect sizes to ensure reliability. In the event of a disagreement, authors came together to discuss to reach consensus. Cohen’s d effect sizes were used for studies with a  sample size above 50. Hedge’s g was used for studies with a sample size below 50. Effect sizes were also weighted, according to sample size, by their proportionality to the mean. For the sake of transparency a downloadable excel file with studies, coding, and basic results has been included in the reference section. 



According to Cohen’s guide, effect sizes below .20 are seen as negligible, meaning they are too small to suggest a meaningful benefit to the intervention. Of the 4 studies identified, we calculated an overall mean effect size of less than .20 for all studies, suggesting that iStation provides no meaningful benefit to reading outcomes. Moreover, the study that we identified as the highest quality, Stein 2022 showed a negative effect size of -.18, when the treatment group was compared to the control. These results suggest that the use of the iStation reading program might lower student achievement. Most effects across all analyzed studies were negligible or negative. A mean unweighted effect size of .03 [-.19, .26] was calculated. This mean was recalculated to take into account sample size and effect sizes were weighted according to their proportionality of the sample mean. A mean weighted effect size of .09 [-.08, .26]. In our opinion, there is no meaningful evidence that iStation improves reading outcomes and there is some evidence that it might lower them. 

Istation Regression Analysis.png

Teacher Feedback:

We reached out on social media for teacher feedback. Comments we received included:

-the assessment was useful

-the program was unengaging

-the content was too difficult for grade levels

-students just guess and “click their way through the software”



This analysis was not peer-reviewed. The authors have not personally used the program in question. 1 Study was identified as a tier 2 ESSA level study, by Evidence for ESSA, but there was insufficient reporting to calculate an effect size. There are not enough studies within this analysis, for the authors to be confident in the results. 


Final Grade: B- 

The principles behind the iStation program are evidence-based. However, in our opinion, the research specific to this program does not show meaningful evidence of efficacy. The program is therefore research-based not evidence-based. 


Qualitative Grade: 8/10 

The program includes the following essential types of instruction: explicit, individualized, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. 


Disclaimer: Please note that this review is not peer reviewed content. These reviews are independently conducted. Pedagogy Non Grata, does not take profit from conducting any program review found on this website.  

Written by:

Nathaniel Hansford: teacher and lead writer for Pedagogy Non Grata

Sky McGlynn: Sociologist/Research Assistant

Elizabeth Reenstra: Teacher/Education Consultant/Research Assistant 

Last Edited by Elizabeth Reenstra and Pamela Aitchison on 2024/05/13



-C, Patarapichayatham. (2019). An Evaluation of Istation Curriculum on Student Reading Growth: A Quasi-Experimental Study Using Propensity Score Analysis. Retrieved from <>. 


-Putman, Rebecca. (2016). Technology versus teachers in the early literacy classroom: an investigation of the effectiveness of the Istation integrated learning system. Educational Technology Research and Development. 65. 1-22. 10.1007/s11423-016-9499-5. 


-R, Wolf, S, Ross, J Eisinger, A Reed, C Armstrong. (2020). Evaluation Study of the Istation Early Reading Program in Idaho. John Hopkins University. Retrieved <>. 


-Stein, B., Solomon, B. G., Kitterman, C., Enos, D., Banks, E., & Villanueva, S. (2022). Comparing Technology-Based Reading Intervention Programs in Rural Settings. The Journal of Special Education, 56(1), 14–24.

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