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New Study Shows Reading Partners Tutoring Program Boosts Reading Proficiency of 2nd through 5th Grade Students

MDRC Report on Reading Partners

The results are in:  After a year-long, independent evaluation of Reading Partners efficacy, a new report shows the impact that the robust literacy program has on improving the reading skills of elementary school students. Reading Partners is a one-on-one tutoring program delivered by volunteers to struggling readers in low-income elementary schools. Reading Partners launched in Silicon Valley in 1999 and currently serves 20 low-income schools, serving 1,000 students locally. In the 2013-14 school year, more than 1,200 community volunteers regularly donated time as literacy tutors through Reading Partners in Silicon Valley.

The research was conducted by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm. They conducted a rigorous random assignment study of Reading Partners in 19 schools in three states (including schools in Silicon Valley with five of the schools being in the Sunnyvale School District), involving more than 1,200 second to fifth grade students. Key findings include:

· Reading Partners had a positive and statistically significant impact on all three measures of student reading proficiency examined — reading comprehension, reading fluency, and sight-word reading for 2nd to 5th graders. In particular, reading comprehension is often difficult to affect through tutoring programs.
· Tutoring by Reading Partners community volunteers twice a week for 45 minutes each session resulted in an additional 1.5 to 2 months of growth in literacy for Reading Partners students compared to a control group of students who also received supplemental reading services.
· The Reading Partners program was found 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.

“We are thrilled by these results. We are constantly looking at data to guide and improve our program, and this research shows we are on the right track,” says Reading Partners CEO Michael Lombardo. “This type of study meets the gold standard for measuring efficacy and shows that our curriculum and the one-on-one tutoring by volunteers are helping to narrow the achievement gap.”

Nationwide, two out of three fourth graders are reading below grade level, and almost one-third of children lack even basic reading skills. In Silicon Valley, almost 53% of fourth-grade students in high-need communities are reading below grade-level. Children who struggle with reading in elementary school are at high risk of academic failure, high school dropout, and other negative outcomes.

“Despite being in the heart of the tech world, we have found high illiteracy rates in Silicon Valley and therefore the need for a program like Reading Partners is great,” said Tai Sunnanon, Executive Director of Reading Partners Silicon Valley. “Our volunteers are vital to reading success, and this research confirms what we see in our classrooms every day. We have tremendous collaboration from school districts, school principals and teachers alike. With Reading Partners’ one-on-one tutoring, you can make a real difference in the life trajectory of a child.”

Established in 1999 in East Menlo Park, California, Reading Partners operates in under-resourced elementary schools, organizing and supervising volunteers from the community to provide one-on-one literacy tutoring to kindergarten through fifth grade students who struggle with reading. At each school, Reading Partners transforms a space into a designated “reading center,” places a full-time staff member on site, and recruits a corps of up to 100 community volunteers. The tutor pool includes individuals of different ages (from 14 to 70+), genders, races and ethnicities, and occupations. The tutors deliver a highly structured, modular curriculum in twice-weekly, 45-minute sessions. The average student stays in the program for more than five months.

You may download MDRC’s Full Study Results at:

About Reading Partners
Reading Partners is a national nonprofit organization that provides volunteer-led, one-on-one literacy tutoring to more than 7,000 elementary school students in nearly 140 schools in low-income communities across seven states and the District of Columbia. Reading Partners delivers a highly effective, research-validated program that has helped thousands of children master the fundamental reading skills they need to succeed in school and beyond. Visit to learn more about how Reading Partners is helping improve student literacy, and how you can help children in your community improve their reading skills and succeed in school.

News Release Submitted by: Tai Sunnanon, Executive Director, Reading Partners/Silicon Valley  

Released: June 11, 2014


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