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Study Finds AmeriCorps Program Boosts Literacy Skills of Pre-K Students

Mar 28, 2015
AmeriCorps Tutors Help Pre-K Students Meet or Exceed All Targets for Kindergarten Readiness
WASHINGTON, D.C  – A rigorous third-party evaluation of the nation’s largest AmeriCorps tutoring program has found that Pre-K students tutored by AmeriCorps members were significantly more prepared for kindergarten in terms of five key literacy skills than students without such tutors. 
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) today released an independent study of Minnesota Reading Corps. The study also found that the tutoring model is replicable in multiple school settings and effective for all students regardless of gender, race/ethnicity, or dual-language learner status. 
This research follows an evaluation of the Minnesota Reading Corps K-3 program released last year. Those results found that AmeriCorps members can produce significantly greater increases in student literacy outcomes among elementary students over one semester of tutoring. 
“This research provides more 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. 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 research, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, used a quasi-experimental design (QED) outcome evaluation of more than 1,500 three-, four-, and five-year-old Pre-K students at 25 urban, suburban, and rural Minnesota schools during the 2013-2014 school year. 
Among the key findings:
  • AmeriCorps tutors with Minnesota Reading Corps helped four- and five-year-old students meet or exceed spring targets for kindergarten readiness in all five assessed areas.  Students in comparison classrooms did so only for one. The effect sizes were not only significant, but substantial in magnitude.
  • By school’s year end, four-and five-year old students in Minnesota Reading Corps classrooms outperformed students in comparison classrooms in all five emergent literacy outcomes assessed:  recognizing letter sounds, rhyming words, letter names, picture names, and alliterations.  
  • The program was effective across a range of settings – both in public schools and Head Start Centers – and for all students regardless of gender, race/ethnicity, or dual language learner status. 
  • By the end of the school year, three-year old students in Minnesota Reading Corps classrooms significantly outperformed students in comparison classrooms in rhyming words and picture names. 
“Reading Corps has established itself as a vital piece of Minnesota’s efforts to strengthen early learning and support our youngest learners,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “After spending time with the passionate staff and tutors, it is no surprise to see this validation of their success. I look forward to continued collaboration with the program, and I am excited to work with Governor Dayton and the Legislature to provide the funding necessary to scale up their work and serve even more kids.”
Minnesota Reading Corps, a strategic initiative of ServeMinnesota, currently engages more than 1,200 AmeriCorps members at 740 public schools and Head Start centers throughout the state. 
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, nearly 1,500 AmeriCorps members will use the Reading Corps model to serve 36,000 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 evaluations in PreK and K-3 settings are 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 a research brief, outcome evaluation, process assessmentappendices, and other materials can be found on the CNCS research page.

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Samantha Jo Warfield
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