What difference does a reading tutor make?

December 27, 2013

Well over half of the District’s third-graders read below grade level, a key indicator of trouble ahead. Two nonprofit programs aim to address that problem through tutoring. Both are getting promising results, but can either expand enough to serve the thousands of kids that need help?

Children who can’t read on grade level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Low-income minority kids in that category are as much as eight times more likely to become dropouts.

And last year, only 34 percent of low-income third graders in D.C. schools were reading at grade level, according to the District’s standardized test, the DC CAS. Although math scores for this group have gone up significantly in recent years, reading scores have barely budged. With about 20,000 kids enrolled in DCPS in preschool through third grade, and an overall third grade proficiency rate of 44 percent, there may be as many as 11,000 kids at risk of falling behind in reading.

And that’s just DCPS. The charter school sector does a better job with economically disadvantaged kids, but no doubt many of the 44 percent of D.C. public school students who attend charters are also in need of tutoring to reach grade levels in reading.

What many of these kids need is one-on-one instruction, something a teacher with a class of 25 or more kids can’t possibly provide. But it’s possible that two organizations active in D.C. Reading Corps, a project of an organization called the Literacy Lab, and Reading Partners — can help. In one case the tutors are paid, and in the other they’re volunteers. It’s not clear whether one model works better than the other, but surprisingly, the program that uses volunteers costs almost twice as much on a per-pupil basis.

[Continue reading Natalie Wexler's post at Greater Greater Education.]

Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education. She is a member of the boards of D.C. Scholars Public Charter School and the nonprofit One World Education. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

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Michael Larabee | December 26, 2013