WWC review of this study

When less may be more: A 2-year longitudinal evaluation of a volunteer tutoring program requiring minimal training.

Baker, S., Gersten, R., & Keating, T. (2000). Reading Research Quarterly, 35(4), 494–519. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ616173

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    84
     Students
    , grades
    1-2
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations

Reviewed: October 2016

Alphabetics outcomes—Substantively important positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Woodcock Reading Mastery Test- Revised (WRMT-R): Word Identification subtest

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
84 students

449.4

437.9

No

 
 
16
Comprehension outcomes—Substantively important positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised (WRMT-R): Word Comprehension subtest

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
84 students

472.3

465.4

No

 
 
16
More Outcomes

Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised (WRMT-R): Passage Comprehension subtest

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
84 students

468.9

464.7

No

 
 
11
Reading fluency outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Oral Reading Fluency: Second-Grade Passage

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
84 students

61.5

45.9

No

 
 
18
More Outcomes

Oral Reading Fluency: First-Grade Passage

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. Business as usual

2 Years

Full sample;
84 students

71.3

55.9

No

 
 
17

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 52%
    Male: 48%
  • Race
    Asian
    6%
    Black
    30%
    Native American
    10%
    White
    47%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    6%
    Not Hispanic
    94%

  • Rural, Suburban, Urban
    • B
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    Oregon

Setting

The study was set in six schools in four Oregon school districts, and 24 classrooms. All of the schools were participating in the SMART program for the first time, therefore, none of the 1st graders in the study had tutoring in kindergarten. The participating schools were Title I schools in two of the largest counties in Oregon.

Study sample

The schools were all Title I schools and represented a mix of large city, moderate-sized city, and rural schools in Oregon. Students were European American (47%), African American (30%), American Indian (10%), Asian American (6%), and Latino (6%). There were 44 females and 40 males in the analytic sample (Total = 84).

Intervention Group

In addition to regular reading instruction during the day, SMART intervention group students received tutoring. The Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) program is a two-year volunteer tutoring program, in which low-performing readers receive one-hour of tutoring from an adult volunteer per week for six months each year in the first and the second grade. The number of 30-minute tutoring sessions ranged from 49-98 per student (mean of 73, SD of 10.9). Volunteers are asked to read to the child, to read together with the child, to have the child reread a section just read by the volunteer, and to ask questions of the child based on the reading. Volunteer training is 1-2 hours, and follow a Volunteer Handbook to guide the tutoring process. The tutors were adults from the local business community, and were older than 30 years (33% aged 30-45; 29% aged 45-65; and 20% over 65 years). The authors described that a half-time SMART coordinator at each school managed the program and described that they were typically AmeriCorps volunteers or instructional assistants with no formal training in reading instruction or elementary education, and training lasted about 1 full day per year for them.

Comparison Group

The comparison condition received all usual services offered by the school. The only noted difference for SMART students was the 1 hour of tutoring per week.

Support for implementation

Volunteer training is 1-2 hours, and follow a Volunteer Handbook to guide the tutoring process. The training occurs in impromptu sessions and consists of instructional modeling by the coordinator. The authors described that a half-time SMART coordinator at each school managed the program and described that they were typically AmeriCorps volunteers or instructional assistants with no formal training in reading instruction or elementary education, and training lasted about 1 full day per year for them. The volunteer tutors work through the volunteer handbook and use four primary reading strategies: 1) reading to the child, 2) reading with the child, 3) volunteer reads a section and the child re-reads, and 4) the volunteer asks questions during reading tutoring.

Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: July 2009

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 52%
    Male: 48%
  • Race
    Asian
    6%
    Black
    30%
    Native American
    10%
    White
    47%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    6%
    Not Hispanic
    94%
No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations

Reviewed: June 2007

Alphabetics outcomes—Substantively important positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests- Revised (WRMT-R): Word Identification subtest

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. business as usual

posttest

Grade 1;
84 students

449.4

437.9

No

 
 
16
Comprehension outcomes—Substantively important positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised (WRMT-R): Word Comprehension subtest

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. business as usual

posttest

Grade 1;
84 students

472.3

456.4

No

 
 
16
More Outcomes

Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised (WRMT-R): Passage Comprehension subtest

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. business as usual

posttest

Grade 1;
84 students

468.9

464.7

No

 
 
11
Reading fluency outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Oral Reading Fluency: Second-Grade Passage

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. business as usual

posttest

Grade 1;
84 students

61.5

45.9

No

 
 
18
More Outcomes

Oral Reading Fluency: First-Grade Passage

Start Making a Reader Today® (SMART®) vs. business as usual

posttest

Grade 1;
84 students

71.3

55.9

No

 
 
17

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 52%
    Male: 48%
  • Race
    Asian
    6%
    Black
    30%
    Native American
    10%
    White
    47%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    6%
    Not Hispanic
    94%
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
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    • y

    Oregon

Setting

The study took place in two large counties in western Oregon. The schools represented a diverse range of communities, from low income/large city to working class/moderate size-city to rural settings.

Study sample

Participants were 127 first-grade students from 24 classrooms in six Title I schools in four districts. Participants were nominated by their teachers as needing supplemental reading assistance based on two criteria: low reading skills and relatively little reading experience with adults or others at home. The students were randomly assigned to intervention and comparison conditions within classrooms after being matched on the Rapid Letter Naming pretest. The study presented findings after the intervention students completed two years of the program. At the end of second grade, 84 students of the original sample remained (43 students in the intervention and 41 students in the comparison group). The study included an additional comparison group of 36 average-achieving readers from the same schools. Analysis involving these comparison groups was not eligible for WWC review because the WWC considers only comparisons of students with similar achievement backgrounds in assessing the effectiveness of SMART®. Student ethnicity was 47% European-American, 30% African-American, 10% American Indian, 6% Asian-American, and 6% Latino.

Intervention Group

Students received one-to-one tutoring for six months each year while they were in first and second grade. The program consisted of two 30-minute sessions a week. Students could also take home two books a month. The number of sessions per student ranged from 49 to 98 with a mean of 73 sessions.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison group received the same regular classroom reading instruction as students in the intervention group, but did not receive the tutoring program.

Outcome descriptions

The Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests–Revised (WRMT-R) word identification subtest was used to test students’ knowledge of alphabetics. First- and second-grade passages from the Oral Reading Fluency were used to test fluency. The WRMT-R passage comprehension subtest was used to test comprehension. Authors also looked at referral rates for special education; however this is not an outcome specified for the beginning reading topic (see Appendices A2.1–2.3 for more detailed descriptions of outcome measures).

Support for implementation

The SMART® program intentionally places minimal demands on volunteer tutors and classroom teachers. Volunteer tutors are given 1-2 hours of training, preferably before the school year begins, but occasionally in an “on the job” setting. The training focuses as much on the logistics of tutoring as it does on reading instruction techniques. A key resource for the volunteers is a volunteer handbook, which describes four reading strategies that they can use with students: reading to the child, reading with the child, re-reading with the child, and asking the child questions about what has been read. Volunteers rely on their own judgment for any other needs.

 

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