Read to Succeed Buffalo
AARP Foundation Experience Corps
AARP Foundation Experience Corps is a volunteer-based tutoring program that connects older adults to their communities by engaging them in the intergenerational work of helping young students become better readers. The program helps older adult volunteers maintain a sense of purpose by putting their wisdom to work, at the same time addressing a major contributor to poverty: the inability of children to read at grade level by the end of third grade.
By connecting them to their communities, Experience Corps improves the mental and physical health of older adult volunteer tutors.
- During the 2016-2017 school year, the first year that Experience Corps came to Buffalo City Schools through a program expansion grant supported by the AARP Foundation, John R. Oishei Foundation and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, 98 percent of volunteers nationally reported that participating in Experience Corps helped them stay physically and mentally active, and 96 percent of volunteers reported that the program increased their sense of purpose in life.
- According to one study, 96 percent of volunteers reported feeling better about themselves after working with Experience Corps, and more than 85 percent of volunteers felt that their lives had improved because of their involvement with the program.
- Studies have shown that participating in Experience Corps actually reduced deficits in areas of the brain associated with the development of dementia.
Low childhood literacy has negative long-term consequences.
Children who are not able to read at grade level by fourth grade are four times more likely not to graduate from high school. If they are poor, attend school with a significant number of other poor children and are not reading at grade level by the fourth grade they are 13 times more likely not to graduate from high school.
- The median annual income of a high school dropout in 2015 was $25,000, compared with $53,800 for someone who obtained a college or post-graduate degree.
- High school dropouts are more likely than those who graduate to be arrested or have a child while still a teenager.
Experience Corps has been proven to measurably benefit students who participate.
- The program has more than 2,000 highly trained volunteers working in 22 cities and serving more than 30,000 students in kindergarten through third grade in high-need schools.
- Students who worked one-to-one with Experience Corps tutors for a single school year saw more than 60 percent greater gains in critical literacy skills compared with students not served by the program.
- Before the school year was suspended on March 16, 2020 due to pandemic related school closings, Experience Corps Buffalo recruited, screened, trained, and coached 72 mature volunteers who were tutoring 524 students in six Buffalo Title I schools; representing every quadrant in the City.
- Despite the abbreviated school year, 93.5 percent of students completed 20 or more sessions and were on track to meet or exceed end of year target of 35 sessions. Of those, 144 or 29 percent had 30 or more sessions completed and 20 students had already achieved the target of 35 tutoring sessions.
- Across all six RTSB Experience Corps schools, second grade had the highest percentage of students at or above benchmark at the mid-year January assessment period with 43 percent. In third grade, 41 percent of students were at or above benchmark for fluency (number of words correct when oral reading) and 55 percent of students were at or above benchmark for accuracy (percentage of words correct out of total words read).
- Overall 28 percent (145/524) of Experience Corps Buffalo small group students improved one or more proficiency levels (change in DIBELS benchmark status) according to January assessment results, 39 percent (206/524) of whom with reading composite scores at or above benchmark for the middle of year.
Read to Succeed Buffalo Experience Corps Going Virtual in 2020-2021.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has required everyone to adjust their activities. Read to Succeed Buffalo is no exception.
- RTSB will be partnering with the Buffalo City Schools to provide Experience Corps 1:1 Tutoring virtually through the District’s MS Teams platform, in the same six partner schools: D’Youville Porter Elementary School #3, Early Childhood Center School #17, Dr. Lydia T. Wright School #89, Southside Elementary School #93, West Hertel Academy School #94 and Waterfront Elementary School #95.
- To that end RTSB is changing its structured session model to better meet the demands of on-line learning. The new structured session, focused on fluency and comprehension, will have RTSB’s Volunteer Tutors utilizing the BPS endorsed Reading A - Z (RAZ) leveled reading program. RTSB will be training the approximately 68 returning veteran Volunteer Tutors in this new model, as well as MS Teams and on-line tutoring strategies in late September.
- While refining RTSB’s tutoring strategies into a more focused session primarily on fluency skill development was not an uncomplicated decision, there are compelling reasons to focus on a specific, discrete skill – particularly for virtual implementation. Multiple rigorous studies have shown fluency to be highly correlated to overall reading ability of elementary school students. Based on the evidence in the literature, fluency is predictive of overall reading ability in elementary school students from a moderate to high degree.