In 2016, the Heckscher Foundation continued to support Reading Partners (RPNY), a program that helps children become lifelong readers through individualized instruction that demands measurable results. A 2015 MDRC study of 1,200 students across three states found that after one year RPNY had significantly increased reading comprehension, fluency, and sight-word reading among diverse groups of students.
The foundation initially funded the program’s replication from the Bay Area to New York City and has since funded expansion of the program. During the 2015 to 2016 school year, RPNY provided one-on-one literacy support to 920 struggling readers across 17 sites in New York City. Students worked with volunteer tutors, receiving individualized 45-minute tutoring sessions twice a week in reading centers throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Among Kindergarten through second-grade students served, 92 percent mastered grade-appropriate foundational literacy skills; among third- and fourth-grade students served, 82 percent accelerated their rate of learning when compared to prior to enrolling in the program
At each school, RPNY creates a reading center and recruits a corps of up to 100 community volunteers to work one-on-one with students who have fallen at least six months behind in reading. Volunteers pull students out of class twice weekly for 45-minute tutoring sessions, utilizing a research-validated curriculum developed in partnership with the Stanford University School of Education. Students are evaluated throughout the year to guide instruction and monitor progress. A trained AmeriCorps member provides daily on-site program coordination with close oversight and assistance from senior RPNY staff. Periodic events engage parents. RPNY’s Take Reading Home program complements tutoring by distributing over 20,000 free books across its programs so students can start home libraries.