OAKLAND, CA, Dec. 14, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Over a five-year period, Reading Partners and third-party education program evaluator, MDRC, will receive $8 million in Education Innovation and Research (EIR) funding through the U.S. Department of Education in order to expand Reading Partners’ ability to provide literacy support programming through an innovative online platform called Reading Partners Connects. Reading Partners Connects offers the same research-based curriculum materials, scripted lessons, and coaching that support volunteers through the nonprofit’s traditional tutoring model.
“Throughout Reading Partners’ 22-year history, our vision has been to ensure that elementary school students, particularly those from under-resourced communities, receive equitable access to the quality early literacy education they deserve,” said Adeola Whitney, CEO Reading Partners. “Receiving the Education Innovation and Research grant is an immense honor, and we are thrilled for the opportunity to innovate our program model, rigorously evaluate our impact, and scale Reading Partners through the use of technology and partnerships. Many thanks to the Department of Education for having confidence in our proven program and for making an investment that will catalyze our work with students and communities across the country.”
The award for Reading Partners was announced on Monday, December 13 by the U.S. Department of Education as part of $182 million in total EIR grant funding being issued to school districts, higher education institutions, and nonprofit organizations in order to “take to scale entrepreneurial and evidence-based projects that have the potential to improve academic achievement for underserved students.”
U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, helped announce the awards: “Especially as students, educators, and school communities continue to heal and recover from the pandemic, we must invest in programs that are innovative and backed by evidence of what works to ensure that our education system can fully and effectively address the academic and social-emotional needs of our children,” said Cardona. “These grants will help to offer rich opportunities to accelerate students’ learning and nurture their development. I look forward to seeing how Education Innovation and Research Grants help take promising practices to scale.”
MDRC will evaluate the efficacy of Reading Partners Connects, while implementation of the project will increase availability of Reading Partners’ proven literacy intervention model—through Reading Partners Connects—in an effort to improve equity, access, and student literacy outcomes at scale.
“We are pleased to be the evaluation partners in this investment in expanding the successful Reading Partners literacy tutoring program,” said William Corrin, Director of K-12 education at MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research firm, and Robin Jacob who will serve as the Principal Investigator of the evaluation and is also Research Associate Professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University Of Michigan and faculty co-Director of the Youth Policy Lab. “As we head into the second winter of the pandemic, there’s no better time to build knowledge about how to better individualize learning supports for elementary students so that they achieve academic success and thrive.”
The widespread challenges of the past few years have exacerbated pre existing opportunity gaps, with pandemic-related learning disruptions disproportionately impacting Black and Latino students and students experiencing economic disadvantages. At the onset of the pandemic, Reading Partners rapidly developed Reading Partners Connects to help combat the disrupted learning faced by students across the country, particularly students from under-resourced communities. Reading Partners Connects is an innovative online program that has enabled Reading Partners to continue to partner with schools and provide volunteer-led one-on-one literacy instruction to students in situations where school campuses are closed to volunteers or where students are in blended learning environments. Reading Partners is committed to ensuring that all students receive equitable access to the literacy education they deserve and rigorous past research, including research by MDRC, has proven that Reading Partners helps students significantly increase reading proficiency.
The EIR award will help Reading Partners meet the moment by ensuring program fidelity of its online tutoring platform and ultimately scaling it to reach as many elementary students as possible across the country.