A rigorous third-party evaluation of the nation's largest AmeriCorps tutoring program has found that elementary students tutored by AmeriCorps 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.
The independent study of Minnesota Reading Corps, released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), also found that the tutoring model is replicable in multiple school settings that use AmeriCorps members with varied backgrounds.
"This research provides solid proof that AmeriCorps boosts student literacy levels – an essential step toward achieving success in school and in life," said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. "The findings reinforce what we hear from principals and superintendents around the country about the value of AmeriCorps in helping students learn to read and stay on track in school."
"In a world where resources continue to be tight and the stakes couldn't be higher for our children, the Corporation for National and Community Service is investing in understanding what works and putting precious resources into expanding programs with strong results," said Jim Shelton, Deputy Secretary of Education. "That's a model not only for running programs but for changing lives at scale."
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 an AmeriCorps tutor performed twice as well as students without one.
- AmeriCorps tutors 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 and reduced-price lunch) who received AmeriCorps tutoring significantly outperformed students who didn't receive tutoring.
- Student performance did not vary by AmeriCorps 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.
Minnesota Reading Corps, a strategic initiative of ServeMinnesota, currently engages more than 1,100 AmeriCorps members at 700 public schools and Head Start centers throughout the state.
Last year, Minnesota Reading Corps AmeriCorps members served 30,000 students by providing individualized, one-on-one tutoring to kindergarten through third grade students and using proven literacy interventions. By combining the people power of AmeriCorps with proven education strategies, this evidence-based initiative can successfully address one of our nation's most critical priorities.
"The Minnesota Reading Corps has been a key partner in our efforts to ensure all students are reading well by third grade," said Minnesota Education Commissioner Dr. Brenda Cassellius. "This new data confirms that strong early learning supports and interventions get great results for kids, and set them on a path for continued academic success."
With support from CNCS and matching funds from private sector and other sources, the Reading Corps program has expanded to seven additional states (California, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Dakota, and Virginia) and the District of Columbia. Altogether, more than 1,250 AmeriCorps members are using the Reading Corps model to serve 35,000 students across the country this year.
CNCS invests more than half of all AmeriCorps grant dollars in education, bringing tens of thousands of caring adults to schools across the country. AmeriCorps members provide teaching, tutoring, mentoring, afterschool support, and other services to students in more than 10,000 public schools, including one in three persistently low-achieving schools.
The Minnesota Reading Corps impact evaluation is part of CNCS's priority to develop a knowledge and evidence base to support the agency's mission, programs, and strategic goals. More information, including an issue brief, full report, appendices, process assessment, and other materials can be found on the CNCS research page.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit www.nationalservice.gov.