Program

Mar 10, 2015

OVERVIEW

Reading Partners is a one-on-one volunteer tutoring program available to elementary school students who attend federally designated low-income schools in California, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington, DC. Reading Partners was developed to improve the reading proficiency of students who are reading six months to two and a half years below grade level. To assess the impact Reading Partners has on students’ reading proficiency (reading comprehension, fluency, and sight-reading) a multi-site, experimental evaluation was conducted.  Evaluation results indicate that Reading Partners had a positive and statistically significant impact on participants’ reading comprehension, fluency, and ability to read sight-words efficiently. In another study, Reading Partners also had a significant positive impact on the percentage of students who moved out of the lowest national quartile of the SAT-10 assessment of reading comprehension during the school year.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Students in grades K-5 who are between six months and two and a half years behind grade level in reading

Reading Partners was developed to improve the reading proficiency of elementary school students who attend federally designated low-income schools, and are reading six months to two and a half years below grade level. Students who participate in Reading Partners receive 45 minutes of one-on-one tutoring from a community volunteer twice-weekly across the academic year. Tutoring sessions are held in the school’s Reading Center and can occur either after school or during the regular school day, where students are pulled out of their regular classes in order to receive individualized instruction. School Reading Centers are overseen by a Site Coordinator who trains and supports the volunteer tutors, and a Program Manager (typically a credentialed teacher) who ensures the high-quality implementation of the program. Reading Partners uses a structured curriculum that consists of two modules (beginning module and comprehension module) and is aligned with the Common Core Standards. Participants’ reading proficiency is assessed at the beginning, middle, and end of each academic year to ensure that participants are placed into an appropriate curriculum level, and that their Individualized Reading Plan is modified to fit their individual needs and progress. A cost study conducted by MDRC during the 2012-2013 school year determined that the total cost of implementing the Reading Partners program was approximately $3,610 per student. However, most of the required resources came from in-kind contributions, and as a result the average cost to schools was $710 per participatingstudent. Schools interested in implementing the program can apply online.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Jacob, R.T., Smith, T. J., Willard, J.A., & Rifkin, R. E. (2014). Reading partners: The implementation and effectiveness of a one-on-one tutoring program delivered by community volunteers. MDRC Policy Brief. 1-11.

Evaluated population: A total of 1,166 students across 19 schools in three states (California, New York, and Washington, DC) participated in the evaluation. To be eligible for inclusion in the evaluation, schools were required to have implemented Reading Partners for at least one year prior to the start of the evaluation, and have a population of students in need of tutoring that exceeded their site’s capacity to serve students. Approximately half of the students enrolled in the schools included in the evaluation sample were male (52 percent), and the majority of students enrolled in these schools were Hispanic/Latino (62 percent), followed by Black/African American (21 percent), Asian (10 percent), White/Caucasian (6 percent), and other (2 percent). Additionally, the majority (82 percent) of the students enrolled in the sample schools were eligible for free/reduced-price lunch. Demographic characteristics and baseline reading proficiency scores of the treatment and control groups were equivalent at the start of the evaluation. All students were in the second through fifth grades.

Approach: Within schools, students were randomly assigned within two grade groups, defined as second to third grade and fourth to fifth grade, to either the Reading Partners intervention or a control condition. Because reading is an integral part of elementary school education, students in the control group were allowed to participate in other types of supplemental reading instruction. Data regarding students’ reading proficiency were collected following random assignment in early fall 2012 (pretest) and late spring 2013 (posttest). Three measures of reading proficiency (i.e., reading comprehension, fluency, and the ability to read sight-words efficiently) that are considered critical components to early reading proficiency were collected at both pretest and posttest.

Results: Results of the evaluation indicate that Reading Partners significantly impacted students’ reading proficiency. Across all three measures, students who participated in Reading Partners had significantly greater reading proficiency than students in the control group. The effect sizes were 0.10 for reading comprehension, 0.09 for reading fluency, and 0.11 for sight-word reading.

Jacob, R. T., Armstrong, C., Willard, J. A., Bowden, A. P., Pan, Y. (2015). Mobilizing volunteer tutors to improve student literacy: Implementation, impacts, and costs of the Reading Partners program. New York: MDRC.

Evaluated population: A total of 1,265 students in grades 2-5 at 19 different schools in New York City, Washington, D.C., East Bay, CA, South Bay, CA, Sacramento, CA, and Los Angeles, CA were randomly assigned to an intervention group or a control group. Schools were eligible to be part of the study if they: 1) had Reading Centers, 2) had been operating a Reading Partners program for at least one year, and 3) would likely be unable to offer Reading Partners services to every student who needed help with reading. Of the final sample of 1,166 students (594 program and 572 control), 65 percent were Hispanic, 19 percent were Black, 55 percent were English Language Learners, and over 90 percent were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Approach: Samples at each school consisted of students who were referred to the Reading Partners program by Reading Partners and school staff and whose parents had given consent. Individual students were randomized within grade groups (2-3 and 4-5) at each school into a treatment (Reading Partners) group and an “as-is” control group who did not receive Reading Partners instruction but were eligible to receive other supplemental reading support. Students were given assessments of three measures of reading proficiency: 1) reading comprehension, 2) sight word efficiency, and 3) oral reading fluency. These assessments were administered during the 2012-2013 school year, both in the fall right after random assignment (baseline) and in the spring as close as possible to the end of the school year (follow-up). Teachers were also given a survey in the spring with questions about the services received by treatment and control group students as well as their academic behavior and performance.

Results: Reading Partners had significant positive impacts on all three measures of reading proficiency: comprehension (ES = 0.10), sight word efficiency (ES = 0.11), and fluency (ES = 0.09). Reading Partners also had a statistically significant impact on the percentage of students who moved out of the lowest national quartile on the SAT-10 reading assessment (ES = 0.22). Reading Partners did not have significant impacts on the secondary outcomes of academic behavior, academic performance, or attendance.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Jacob, R. T., Armstrong, C., Willard, J. A., Bowden, A. P., Pan, Y. (2015). Mobilizing volunteer tutors to improve student literacy: Implementation, impacts, and costs of the Reading Partners program. New York: MDRC.

Jacob, R.T., Smith, T. J., Willard, J.A., & Rifkin, R. E. (2014). Reading partners: The implementation and effectiveness of a one-on-one tutoring program delivered by community volunteers. MDRC Policy Brief. 1-11.

Website: http://readingpartners.org/

Contact Information

Reading Partners

180 Grand Ave., Suite 800
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 444-9800

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Elementary, Males and Females (Co-ed), School-based, Manual, Cost, Tutoring, After-School Program, Reading/Literacy.

Program information last updated 03/10/2015.