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Improving Literacy Through Experience


  • There’s little research on the effectiveness of volunteer-led small group tutoring.
  • How do individual, small group and classroom tutoring compare?
  • Lessons learned will be used to make a stronger program.
The Challenge

The AARP Foundation’s Experience Corps (EC) is an evidence-based literacy tutoring program that targets schools within high-need communities where a significant portion of K-3 students are below grade level in reading. EC provides highly-trained, committed adults who are 50 and older as volunteer tutors.

While there’s strong evidence to support one-to-one tutoring, one-to-one is a relatively high cost intervention and the number of volunteers needed to provide it makes it difficult to grow programs and offer services at scale. There is currently very little rigorous research on the effectiveness of volunteer-led small group tutoring, which impedes the program’s expansion.

The Approach

Abt and EC are engaged in an implementation study that will define these three alternatives clearly—one-on-one tutoring, small group tutoring, and full-classroom literacy instruction. The goal is to understand whether these alternative service delivery models work, measure whether they are implemented with fidelity, and determine under what conditions they work best. 

The Results

As the study winds down, Abt and the AARP Foundation will apply lessons learned study to subsequent impact evaluations, resulting in a stronger program. Additionally, proving the efficacy of small group tutoring could multiply the 7,000 EC students currently receiving one-to-one tutoring up to four times without a commensurate increase in the number of volunteers or program costs.