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August 31, 2015

Tulsa World Editorial: Literacy: In a word, Reading Partners works

By World’s Editorial Writers

Tulsa World / August 29, 2015

Sometimes it takes a village to make a difference, and Reading Partners did. A year ago, the Reading Partners program operated in 15 Tulsa elementary schools. Some 858 participants lagged an average of 10 months behind their grade-level peers in reading. By academic year’s end, 97 percent of those students had increased their rate of literacy with the help of volunteer tutors.

On average, Tulsa students tripled their rate of learning for every month they were enrolled in Reading Partners, an Americorps-affiliated program that provides supplemental reading intervention. Eighty-five percent of participants narrowed the gap between themselves and their grade-level peers in reading, compared with 72 percent nationally.

Without intervention, those 858 students might have ended the school year 16 months behind grade-level peers in reading. Instead they trailed by an average of seven months.

Success builds on success. This school year, Reading Partners is expanding into two more TPS sites, and might expand throughout the district in the future if new Superintendent Deborah Gist gets her way.

The program uses a full-time Reading Partners staffer to guide and supervise community volunteers as they provide literacy tutoring to struggling readers. Cost to the district is $255,000.

That adds up to enormous returns for students. Oklahoma is a state in which only one in four fourth-graders is reading at a proficient level and 36 percent lack even basic literacy skills.

Reading Partners is poised to address Tulsa’s significant achievement gap but it needs more volunteers willing to give one to two hours a week, a small sacrifice with a huge potential return.

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