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. The study showed that after one year of implementation, the program significantly boosted students' reading comprehension, fluency, and sight-word reading — three measures of reading proficiency. These impacts are equivalent to approximately one and a half to two months of additional growth in reading proficiency among the program group relative to the control group.
Tutoring and Volunteering
Mobilizing Volunteer Tutors to Improve Student Literacy: Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program
Jacob, R.T., Armstrong, C., and Willard, J.A. Mobilizing Volunteer Tutors to Improve Student Literacy: Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program (March 2015) New York, NY: MDRC.
Reading Partners: The Implementation and Effectiveness of a One-on-One Tutoring Program Delivered by Community Volunteers
Robin Tepper Jacob, Thomas J. Smith, Jacklyn A. Willard, and Rachel E. Rifkin (June 2014) Reading Partners: The Implementation and Effectiveness of a One-on-One Tutoring Program Delivered by Community Volunteers. MRDC: New York, New York.
This policy brief tells the story of Reading Partners, a successful one-on-one volunteer tutoring program that serves struggling readers in low-income elementary schools and that has already been taken to a large scale. The brief summarizes the early results of an evaluation that was conducted during the 2012-2013 school year in 19 schools in three states, and which involved 1,265 students. The evaluation finds positive impacts of the program on three different measures of reading proficiency: reading comprehension, reading fluency, and sight-word reading — that equaled 1.5 to 2 months of growth in literacy achievement. Reading Partners program was effective for a wide variety of students — from different grades or baseline reading achievement levels, male and female students, and for those who are not native English speakers.
Timing and Intensity of Tutoring: A Closer Look at the Conditions for Effective Early Literacy Tutoring
Vadasy, P., Sanders, E., Jenkins, J. & Peyton, J. (2002). Timing and intensity of tutoring: A closer look at the conditions for effective early literacy tutoring. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 17, 227-241.
This article reports data from a longitudinal study of one-to-one tutoring for students at risk for reading disabilities. Participants were at-risk students who received phonics-based tutoring in first grade, students who were tutored in comprehension skills in second grade, and students tutored in both grades 1 and 2. At second-grade posttest, there were significant differences in word identification and word attack between students who were tutored in first grade only compared to students who were also tutored in second grade, favoring students who were tutored in first grade only. Overall, there were no advantages to a second year of tutoring. For students tutored in second grade only, there were no differences at second-grade posttest compared to controls. Schools may have selected students who did not respond to first-grade tutoring for continued tutoring in second grade. Findings are discussed in light of decisions schools make when using tutors to supplement reading instruction for students with reading difficulties.
What Makes Literacy Tutoring Effective?
Juel, C. (1996). What makes literacy tutoring effective? Reading Research Quarterly, 31, 268-289.
In 1991, researchers Connie Juel reported that university student-athletes who were poor readers seemed to be effective tutors of first-grade children who were poor readers. This 1996 study explores factors that may account for successful tutoring outcomes when poor readers tutor other poor readers. Two activities were found to be particularly important in successful tutor-student relationship: (a) the use of texts that gradually and repetitively introduced both high-frequency vocabulary and words with common spelling patterns and (b) activities in which children were engaged in direct letter-sound instruction. Two forms of verbal interaction were found to be particularly important: (a) scaffolding of reading and writing and (b) modeling of how to read and spell unknown words.