A rigorous third-party evaluation of Minnesota Reading Corps has found that elementary students tutored by Reading Corps members achieved significantly higher literacy levels than students without such tutors, and that the impacts were statistically significant even among students at higher risk of academic failure. United Ways of Iowa, in partnership with local United Ways and school districts, is currently replicating the Reading Corps model in Iowa.

Iowa Reading Corps, a strategic initiative of United Ways of Iowa, currently engages 10 trained, full-time Reading Corps members at eight public elementary schools across the state of Iowa, reaching nearly 200 children. Reading Corps members provide one-on-one, research-based literacy interventions to students in kindergarten through third grade who are below grade level in reading. Members also collaborate with their local United Ways to engage in volunteer recruitment and community engagement activities to strengthen the relationship between the school and community. By combining the people power of AmeriCorps with proven education strategies, this evidence-based program is successfully addressing one of our nation’s most critical priorities.

For the 2013-2014 school year, United Way of Story County covers the living stipends for three Iowa Reading Corps AmeriCorps members who are currently serving at Central Elementary in Nevada, Ballard East Elementary in Cambridge, and Sawyer Elementary in Ames,

The pilot also has members serving at Washington Elementary in Sioux City, Oskaloosa Elementary in Oskaloosa, Hoover Elementary in Mason City, Jefferson-Edison Elementary in Davenport and Neil Armstrong Elementary in Bettendorf. Other participating local United Ways include United Way of Siouxland, United Way of Mahaska County, United Way of North Central Iowa and United Way of the Quad Cities.

The research on the Minnesota Reading Corps, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, used a randomized controlled trial of more than 1,500 students in kindergarten through third grade at 23 urban, suburban and rural Minnesota schools during the 2012-2013 school year.

Among the key findings:

• After a single semester of tutoring, the average kindergarten student with a Reading Corps tutor performed twice as well as students without one.

• After one semester of tutoring, Reading Corps members helped the average first-grade student perform 11 percent better than untutored peers, and 26 percent higher than the expected level for on-track students • Students with higher risk factors (such as dual language learners and students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch) who received Reading Corps tutoring significantly outperformed students who didn’t receive tutoring.

• Student performance did not vary by Reading Corps member characteristics (i.e., gender, race, age, years of education, full/part-time AmeriCorps status, or prior education experience), nor by the specific school at which the tutoring occurred, which suggests the model is highly replicable.

Results of the Iowa Reading Corps will be available later this year.

The Reading Corps impact evaluation is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service’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, full report, appendices, process assessment, and other materials can be found on the CNCS research page.