Grant Recipient: University of Michigan
Term: 2023 — 2027
Principal Investigator: Robin Jacob, PhD, University of Michigan
Funding: $927,532 from Arnold Ventures, with an additional $8 million provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program and $175,000 from Accelerate.
Summary: This project will supplement a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of Reading Partners, a one-on-one reading tutoring program for elementary school students in systemically disadvantaged communities. The Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program at the U.S. Department of Education awarded funding to Reading Partners to expand implementation of and conduct an RCT to evaluate Reading Partners Connects, a version of the program delivered virtually (via video conferencing), which will measure outcomes at the end of the same school year. The grant from Arnold Ventures will (i) add an additional treatment arm to the EIR-funded RCT to evaluate the Reading Partners’ traditional, in-person program; and (ii) extend the study timeline to measure outcomes approximately two years after random assignment.
A 2015, multi-site RCT of Reading Partners found that the program produced statistically significant positive impacts on reading comprehension, reading fluency, and sight word efficiency (the ability to quickly identify commonly used words) at the end of the school year, approximately eight months after random assignment. In standardized effect sizes, the impacts ranged from 0.09 to 0.11 standard deviations, which equate to roughly two months of additional progress in reading achievement, relative to the control group, over one school year. The Reading Partners Connects program was developed during the Covid-19 pandemic and has not yet been rigorously evaluated.
Under the current study, researchers from MDRC and the University of Michigan will recruit roughly 24 schools in multiple cities across the country and randomly assign 1,680 students in 1st through 4th grade who are 6 months to 2.5 years behind in reading achievement to one of three groups: (i) Reading Partners traditional, in-person tutoring program, (ii) the virtually-delivered Reading Partners Connects tutoring program, or (iii) a business-as-usual control group. The RCT will measure the effect of both the traditional and virtually-delivered Reading Partners programs on reading comprehension, fluency, and sight word efficiency. Outcomes will be assessed using validated reading tests administered at the end of the intervention year and again, two years after random assignment by members of the study team who are blinded to treatment status.
The study’s pre-specified analysis plan is linked here.