Reading Corps Program Demonstrates Significant Impact on Student Literacy Outcomes
Independent Evaluation Finds Reading Corps Model Currently Implemented
by United Ways in Iowa Produces Strong Literacy Gains
DES MOINES, IA – A rigorous third-party evaluation of Minnesota Reading Corps has found that elementary students tutored by Reading Corps members achieved significantly higher literacy levels than students without such tutors, and that the impacts were statistically significant even among students at higher risk of academic failure. United Ways of Iowa, in partnership with local United Ways and school districts, is currently replicating the Reading Corps model in Iowa.
Two AmeriCorps members are currently working in Oskaloosa Elementary School, doing 1-on-1 tutoring with Kindergarten through 3rd graders. Each working with about 20 students a day, the tutors are able to make a real impact on students who are in danger of falling behind in reading. Following the Minnesota model, each 20-minute session works on skills like reading comprehension and oral fluency, giving students the attention they made need to become proficient in reading. And the impact is already being seen in Oskaloosa.
“I have had two parents, who happen to also be teachers, seek me out to let me know how thankful they are that I am working with their child because as they listen to them read they have seen a great improvement,” said Jenn Martin, a Reading Corps member in Oskaloosa.
By combining the people power of AmeriCorps with proven education strategies, this evidence-based program is successfully addressing one of our nation’s most critical priorities.
The research, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, used a randomized controlled trial of more than 1,500 students in kindergarten through third grade at 23 urban, suburban, and rural Minnesota schools during the 2012-2013 school year.
Among the key findings:
• After a single semester of tutoring, the average kindergarten student with a Reading Corps tutor performed twice as well as students without one.
• Reading Corps members helped the average first grade student perform 11 percent better than untutored peers, and 26 percent higher than the expected level for on-track students after one semester of tutoring.
• Students with higher risk factors (such as dual language learners and students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch) who received Reading Corps tutoring significantly outperformed students who didn’t receive tutoring.
• Student performance did not vary by Reading Corps member characteristics (i.e., gender, race, age, years of education, full/part-time AmeriCorps status, or prior education experience), nor by the specific school at which the tutoring occurred, which suggests the model is highly replicable.
For the 2013-2014 school year, Iowa Reading Corps AmeriCorps members are also currently serving at Washington Elementary in Sioux City, Central Elementary in Nevada, Ballard East Elementary in Cambridge, Sawyer Elementary in Ames, Hoover Elementary in Mason City, Jefferson-Edison Elementary in Davenport, and Neil Armstrong Elementary in Bettendorf.
The Reading Corps impact evaluation is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s priority to develop a knowledge and evidence base to support the agency’s mission, programs, and strategic goals. More information, including a research brief, full report, appendices, process assessment, and other materials can be found on the CNCS research page.