Mobilizing volunteer tutors to improve student literacy: Implementation, impacts, and costs of the Reading Partners program

This study reports on an evaluation of the Reading Partners program, which uses community volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring to struggling readers in underresourced elementary schools. Established in 1999 in East Menlo Park, California, Reading Partners’ mission is to help children become lifelong readers by empowering communities to provide individualized instruction with measurable results. At each school, Reading Partners transforms a dedicated space into a “reading center,” places a full-time team member on site to manage day-to-day operations, and recruits a corps of 40 to 100 community volunteers to work one-on-one with students in pull-out sessions during the school day or after school in kindergarten through grade 5. (This evaluation included only students in grades 2 through 5.) In March 2011, Reading Partners received a three-year True North Fund investment of up to $3.5 million in grants from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and the Social Innovation Fund, matched by $3.5 million from True North Fund co-investors, to further expand its early-intervention literacy program to elementary schools throughout the country and evaluate its effectiveness. This report is the second publication from that evaluation. A policy brief released by MDRC in June 2014 reported the initial findings from the evaluation, which was conducted during the 2012-2013 school year in 19 schools in three states, with more than 1,100 students randomly assigned to the study’s program and control groups.
Authors citation
Jacob, R. T., Armstrong, C., & Willard, J. A.
Publication
MDRC
Year of Study
2015
Subject
Literacy
Program Name
Reading Partners
Program Evaluated
Reading Partners
Tutor Type
Volunteer - Unpaid
Duration
1 year
Sample size
1166
Grade Level(s)
2nd Grade,
3rd Grade,
4th Grade,
5th Grade
Student-Tutor Ratio
1
Effect Size
0.09
Study Design
Student Randomized
Full citation
Jacob, R. T., Armstrong, C., & Willard, J. A. (2015). Mobilizing volunteer tutors to improve student literacy: Implementation, impacts, and costs of the Reading Partners program. New York: MDRC.