Reading Partners placed AmeriCorps members in California schools to provide one-on-one literacy tutoring for economically disadvantaged students at locations in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Silicon Valley. At the end of the first program year, the AmeriCorps members were responsible for measurably increasing the literacy skills of at least 1,471 high-need target students. In addition, the AmeriCorps members leveraged an additional 3,500 community volunteers who were engaged in individualized reading tutoring through the model.
The purpose of the study was to deepen the organization’s understanding of the quality of the Reading Partners AmeriCorps service experience and its effects on the civic engagement and educational and career pathways of their AmeriCorps and VISTA alumni.
The research questions were:
- What outcomes do Reading Partners AmeriCorps alumni attribute to their Reading Partners experience?
- Do these alumni perceive that serving as a Reading Partners AmeriCorps member helped them develop professional and interpersonal skills or influenced or changed their career and/or academic pathways?
- In what ways, if any, do perceived member outcomes vary by member characteristics, including age, race/ethnicity, educational background, years of service with Reading Partners, role with Reading Partners, geographic region where they served, prior service with another AmeriCorps program, cohort year, or early vs. late cohorts?
- Controlling for other factors, do Reading Partners AmeriCorps alumni demonstrate stronger professional and interpersonal skills and/or greater levels of civic engagement than similarly situated members of the national population?
The evaluation found the following:
- Almost all (87%) Reading Partners AmeriCorps alumni were satisfied with their Reading Partners service experience and were more likely to report their service as satisfying or very satisfying than were AmeriCorps alumni who participated in the 2015 CNCS study.
- A majority (>60%) of alumni agreed that their Reading Partners AmeriCorps service experience caused them to re-examine their beliefs about themselves or other people (65%); about two-thirds reported that they did things during their service year(s) that they never thought they could do.
- At least 90% of alumni agreed that their Reading Partners AmeriCorps service experience helped them feel as though they contributed to the community where they served and that they made a difference in the life of at least one person (95%); Reading Partners alumni were more likely to agree with these statements than were AmeriCorps alumni who participated in the 2015 CNCS study.
- At least 80% of alumni agreed that their service experience helped them gain an understanding of the community where they served and exposed them to new ideas and ways of seeing the world.
- Most (>50%) Reading Partners AmeriCorps alumni said that their service experience helped them figure out their next steps in terms of their career and professional goals; slightly more than half said the same about their educational goals.
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