New Research: TutorMate Significantly Improves Students’ Reading

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During the 2014-15 school year, two important research studies were conducted to measure the efficacy of the TutorMate program in the classroom. The research reports are now finalized, and IFL is excited to announce that data from both studies demonstrate TutorMate’s significant positive impact on student reading scores, confirming what teachers have anecdotally been telling us for years. 

In the first study, George Washington’s Graduate School of Education conducted a mixed methods investigation based on compiled data from test scores, classroom observations, teacher interviews and teacher surveys in five randomly selected Broward County Public Schools that participate in TutorMate.

The researchers at GWU unequivocally concluded that the TutorMate program improved classroom instruction and the teachers’ knowledge of their students’ reading progress. Test score data from this same research study showed that students in treatment classrooms improved from 34.5% at grade level reading at the beginning of the year to 78.2% at the end of the year.

In the second study, two researchers at Epsilon Economics analyzed district test data of 12 TutorMate partner districts from the 2014-15 school year, derived from a randomized trial of students who were tutored online during the school year. About 600 students were randomly placed in treatment and control groups, and the analysis showed that students who received at least 16 tutoring sessions made 15% more reading growth than the control group, nearly one full reading level of improvement. T-tests conducted by Epsilon Economics confirmed a statistically significant impact on reading scores of the TutorMate program.

Together, these two independent research studies compellingly demonstrate the positive student learning outcomes of the TutorMate System for beginning reading instruction. The TutorMate program significantly improves learning in low income schools, on a replicable and scalable basis in school districts across the country. “Particularly telling is the number of students who started the year below grade level but finished at or above grade level. TutorMate appeared to help many students to reach grade level ability in their emergent and basic reading skills.” – George Washington’s Graduate School of Education Research

This data corroborates teachers’ observations of student progress from online tutoring in previous years.

Why is this so important?
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 34% of the nation’s fourth grade students were able to read at or above Proficient level in 2013. The National Research Council asserts that, “academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade. A person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school.” Because reading proficiency in third grade is predicated on students becoming fluent readers in earlier years, our programming targets students in primary grades.

We would like to thank the researchers at George Washington University and at Epsilon Economics for helping us to affirm the efficacy of our program on a larger scale; and of course, the teachers, principals, superintendents and tutors who believe in the power of TutorMate and in the importance of literacy for our students.

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Innovations for Learning (IFL) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving student literacy by providing schools with online tutoring and digital applications for teachers and students to improve primary grade reading instruction and learning in underperforming schools. In IFL’s TutorMate program, each tutor is assigned to work with a student throughout the school year, once a week, for a 30-minute online tutoring session. During each tutoring session, the tutor and student read stories at the student’s instructional reading level (informed by the teacher) and play word games associated with the words the student is working on in the classroom. IFL is currently partnered with 16 public school districts and will be expanding to add new cities in 2016.

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