A national volunteer tutoring program implemented in local schools by Springfield College AmeriCorps members was featured in the Washington Post on March 28. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released a third-party evaluation of the nation’s largest AmeriCorps tutoring program, Minnesota Reading Corps, with results showing 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 Springfield College AmeriCorps Program remains one of the College’s constant and long-standing community outreach programs. In 2012-13, the program launched the Massachusetts Reading Corps with 12 literacy tutors implementing the Minnesota Reading Corps Pre-K model in 6 classrooms in Springfield Public Schools and at HeadStart and Square One. The program has expanded each year, and currently there are 21 Reading Corps literacy tutors provide support to more than 400 students.Reading Corps mobilizes AmeriCorps members to implement evidence-based literacy strategies and interventions with students who need supplemental instruction to gain the early literacy foundation they need to become successful readers. In 2013-14, 237 students completed the Massachusetts Reading Corps program, and results showed significant gains in the Big 5 literacy skills predictive of future reading success. From fall to spring, the percentage of students on target or close to target improved from 48% to 84% in picture naming (vocabulary); 20% to 60% in rhyming; 19% to 54% in alliteration; 44% to 79% in letter names; and 10% to 51% in letter sounds.
“Many children, especially those from low-income backgrounds, enter kindergarten well behind their peers when it comes to development of crucial early literacy skills,” explains Shannon Langone, director of the AmeriCorps programs at Springfield College. “Reading Corps helps to ensure that all children start kindergarten with the early literacy skills that research shows lead to reading proficiency later on.”
The research distributed by the CNCS 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.
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 2013-14 school year.
Among the key findings are:
- 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.
The Minnesota Reading Corps is the nation’s largest AmeriCorps tutoring program. Since 2003, the program has helped more than 100,000 struggling readers progress towards proficiency, and the model has expanded to seven other states and Washington, DC, now reaching more than 36,000 students annually.
In addition to the Massachusetts Reading Corps, Springfield College also manages the AmeriCorps School Turnaround Initiative, which places Academic Coaches and School Counselors in Level 4 schools throughout Springfield and provides support to students identified as at risk for dropping out. In total, the Springfield College AmeriCorps Program places more than 70 AmeriCorps members in schools and early childhood education agencies, serving students from grade Pre-K through 12. Last year, members provide more than 62,000 hours of service.
Founded in 1885, Springfield College is known worldwide for the guiding principles of its Humanics philosophy—educating students in spirit, mind and body for leadership in service to others. With its foundation of academic excellence and rich athletic heritage, Springfield College prepares students with real-world leadership skills for careers that transform lives and communities. The college offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the fields of health sciences, human and social services, sport management and movement studies, education, business, and the arts and sciences. It also offers doctoral programs in physical education, physical therapy, and counseling psychology. The college is ranked in the 2015 edition of “Best Colleges” in the top tier of “Best Regional Universities – North Region” by U.S.News and World Report, and is designated as a premier Leadership Development Center by the YMCA of the USA. More than 5,000 traditional, nontraditional and international students study at its main campus in Springfield, Mass., and at its School of Human Services campuses across the country.
The AmeriCorps programs at Springfield College are funded in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Massachusetts Service Alliance, the Funder Collaborative for Reading Success, and the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation.