ISR Awards

Randomized Trials of Reading Partners Program

Background
Founded in 1999, Reading Partners (RP) has developed an innovative, cost-effective approach to addressing the problem of low literacy skills. RP helps children become proficient readers by empowering communities to provide individualized instruction with measurable results. RP operates in over 60 schools across the country, where supervised volunteers provide one-on-one literacy tutoring to struggling readers in K-5. Internal data collection and analysis has shown that students participating in Reading Partners improve their reading skills at a significantly faster rate than peer control students. This external evaluation, which is in part funded by a Social Innovation Fund grant distributed by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, will help better understand the effect of Reading Partners on participating students as well as provide important information on the implementation of Reading Partners in the school environment.
The main impact research questions the study hopes to answer are:
1. What impact does Reading Partners have on the reading ability of students who participate, as compared to students who do not?
2. What impact does Reading Partners have on the learning behaviors (classroom attentiveness, assignment completion) of students who participate, as compared to students who do not?
Study Design
This evaluation will use a student-level randomized control trial (RCT) design to select among a large group of eligible students recommended by school staff those that will receive Reading Partners during the 2012-2013 school year. We are looking to enroll approximately 21 schools with existing Reading Partners programs (RP) with a target sample size of approximately 1,250 students distributed among grades 2-5.
A sample of eligible students will be identified by school leaders and the research will be conducted only in schools where there are more eligible students than can be served by available tutors. All eligible students whose parents have provided informed consent to participate in the study will be entered into a lottery and selected for either the Reading Partners Group or the Control Group. The numbers of students served at each school will not decrease as a result of the study; we will simply be taking advantage of the existing need for reading assistance at RP partner schools. Students not placed into the Reading Partners group will be able to access any other reading programs offered at their school.
During the 2012-2013 school year SRO will collect the following data to be included in the analysis:
? Baseline and follow-up literacy testing of students in the control and treatment group. The testing will consist of a widely-accepted, group-administered literacy assessment, lasting about 30 minutes and a 5-10 minute individually administered literacy assessment.
? Teacher surveys from the classroom teachers of sample students. These are short paper-based surveys asking about students? literacy-related academic work and engagement in school.