Experience Corps

D.    Maximizing State-Level Funds to Support Students

The Department recognizes that States have an extraordinary opportunity to address the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on underserved students through the ARP Act’s required State set-asides to address the academic impact of lost instructional time, provide summer learning and enrichment programs, and provide comprehensive afterschool programs. In this section, SEAs will describe their evidence-based strategies for these resources.

  1. Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: Describe how the SEA will use the funds it reserves under section 2001(f)(1) of the ARP Act (totaling not less than 5 percent of the State’s total allocation of ARP ESSER funds) on evidence-based interventions to address the academic impact of lost instructional time by supporting the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs, and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. The description must include:
    1. A description of the evidence-based interventions (e.g., providing intensive or high-dosage tutoring, accelerating learning) the SEA has selected, and the extent to which the SEA will evaluate the impact of those interventions on an ongoing basis to understand if they are working;

Description of the Evidence-Based Intervention

The State of Arizona has identified high dosage tutoring as an evidence-based intervention to address lost instructional time. Research-proven one-to-one and one-to-small group tutoring has been shown to be the most effective method of accelerating reading and math achievement. In fact, proven tutoring models that provide their tutors with structured materials and guidance with professional development and in-class coaching have demonstrated greater effects on student achievement than other strategies, including summer school, after school, and extended day programs (Gersten et al., 2020; Neitzel et al., in press; Nickow et al. 2020; Pellegrini et al., 2021; Wanzek et al., 2016).  One such program, AARP Foundation Experience Corps (EC), has been selected by Arizona as a grades K-3 reading intervention because it is a unique program that incorporates the benefits of a tutor and older adult mentor.

AARP Foundation Experience Corps is a community-based tutoring program that engages highly trained people over 50 to help students become better readers by the end of third grade. Its structured model of sustained tutoring improves the overall reading ability of students by building their fluency, accuracy and comprehension skills. Experience Corps was launched through the collaborative efforts of Marc Freedman (Encore) and Linda Fried (Johns Hopkins University) in the mid-1990s. Tutoring sessions take place in one-to-one or small group settings (no more than 3 students, grouped by similarity of reading skill level) for two 30-minute tutoring sessions a week throughout the school year. We set a target of 35 tutoring sessions or until the student reaches reading proficiency.


Tutors, who are 50 or older, receive at least 20 hours of training annually. While a high school degree is required, most tutors have college degrees, and all must pass a screening process for suitability that includes background screening. Tutors usually conduct sessions in-person but may conduct sessions online when in-person tutoring is not possible.


Experience Corps was designed for students in grades K-3 who are reading at 1 to 1.5 years behind their near-age peers.  In recent years, 95% of students participating in the Experience Corps program nationwide were income-eligible to receive free- or reduced-price school meals, and 89% of our K-3 students began the 2019-2020 school year with literacy proficiency rates below state standards and grade level benchmarks.


AARP Foundation Experience Corps tutoring sessions are designed with sufficient structure to be conducted live or virtually. Our programs have successfully integrated into local virtual learning platforms (including Google Meets, MS Teams, Zoom and WebEx), depending on local school district parameters. When presented virtually (across platforms), our leveled reading content can be shared on screen. Experience Corps provides training, coaching and support for tutors, including monitoring to support the safe and secure conduct of in-person and virtual sessions. 


Experience Corps leverages leveled reading content (Reading A-to-Z) within our structured session, which focuses on skill building in the areas of pre-fluency, fluency and comprehension (depending on the individual skill needs of the student).  


Standardized measures were chosen for the study that were independent of any particular tutoring curricula. Standardized reading tests included the Woodcock Johnson Word Attack (WJ-WA), the Woodcock Johnson Passage Comprehension (WJ-PC), and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III (PPVT-III). The WJ-WA and the WJ-PC are subtests of the Woodcock[1]Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III ACH), designed to measure intellectual abilities and academic achievement with tests on written language, oral language, and academic knowledge (Gunn, Biglan, Smolkowski, & Ary, 2000; Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001). The WJ-WA subtest assesses phonemic awareness skills, and the WJ-PC subtest assesses overall skill at understanding text. Teachers’ perceptions of students’ abilities were used as measures of grade-specific reading skills.  

Program Operation

In each tutoring session, students meet with their matched tutor (a) in the classroom or in designated spaces during the school day, (b) as part of an afterschool program, or (c) virtually via an online video tutoring platform. Structured mentoring sessions include relationship building activity/talk time; reading and re-reading of a story; skill-building activities; read aloud; and closing activities, which include quality talk to support comprehension and integration. 

Professional Development, Progress Monitoring, and Follow-up

Volunteers participating in EC are trained, coached and monitored regularly. Across all programs, volunteers receive a minimum of 20 hours of training not only on the structured tutoring session, but in best practices around social-emotional learning, growth mindset and the technology platforms used. Volunteers are continually monitored by school or partner staff and program staff to ensure program fidelity to the model and to gauge the need for further training.

Research on Program Outcomes

Researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis conducted a rigorous study of Experience Corps with a sample size of 881 (430 in the EC program group and 451 in the control group). The sample consisted of first graders (41%), second graders (36%), and third graders (23%). Fifty-one percent of students were male and 49% were female. African American students accounted for 58% and Hispanic students for 36%, with the remaining 6% representing non-African American, non-Hispanic races, such as White or Asian. A vast majority of students, about 94%, were enrolled in the free lunch program. In sum, most students participating in this study were ethnic minorities and of low socioeconomic status. One-to-one tutoring was provided by 174 EC volunteers across three cities: 81 in Boston, 52 in New York, and 41 in Port Arthur, Texas. On the WJ-PC and grade-specific reading skills, EC students showed significantly greater gains than control group students, with effect sizes of .13 and .16, respectively.

Extent to Which AARP Foundation Experience Corps Will be Evaluated on an Ongoing Basis

Each of our programs collects data for progress monitoring on a regular basis, targeting fluency and SEL assessments at Beginning of Year (BOY)/Beginning of Tutoring, Middle of Year (MOY) and End of Year (EOY). The program’s model is focused on pre-fluency, fluency and comprehension. As such, our assessments focus on these aspects of reading skill development. Each of our programs submits data to a third-party evaluator, who in turn produces validated reports summarizing program outputs and outcomes.  Additionally, Experience Corps conducts ongoing evaluation studies of tutor and student experiences and outcomes to drive continuous improvement of our implementation. 

  1. How the evidence-based interventions will specifically address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on certain groups of students, including each of the student groups listed in question A.3.i.-viii. When possible, please indicate which data sources the SEA will use to determine the impact of lost instructional time; and

How the evidence-based interventions will specifically address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on certain groups of students

The small group structure of Experience Corps will allow the tutors to identify and target individual needs of students. Experience Corps has demonstrated success among disadvantaged students and students from ethnic minorities, which have been hit hardest by COVID-19 (Lee, Morrow-Howell, Jonson-Reid & McCrary, 2010).

Data on student learning loss during the COVID school closures indicate that students from ethnic minority groups have been disproportionately affected. For example, research shows that reading losses due to COVID are the greatest in grades K and 1, and mostly among African-American and Hispanic students. (Amplify Education, 2021). On the DIBELS standardized test given mid-year in 2019-2020 and then 2020-2021 to 400,000 matched students in 1,400 schools in 41 states, results showed a 68% increase in the percentage of kindergartners at risk of not learning to read, and a 65% increase of first graders. Within these results, twice as many African-American kindergartners are in the lowest reading category than before COVID, and 59% of Hispanic kindergartners are now in the lowest reading category, compared to 34% pre-COVID. Patterns are similar in first grade (Amplify Education, 2021).

 Experience Corps is designed for younger readers, the age shown to have experienced the greatest losses during the pandemic, we are confident that Experience Corps will continue to demonstrate positive effects on student achievement, especially as the pandemic fades and school routines settle down.

Data sources the SEA will use to determine the impact of lost instructional time

INSERT STATE’S PLANS TO EVALUATE ALL STUDENTS WHEN THEY RETURN, IF ANY. Within Experience Corps, students receive an initial assessment at the Beginning of the Year or upon their entry into the tutoring program. That is the baseline upon which students will then build their skills. Assessments are ongoing and are shared weekly periodically with tutors and teachers. Individual student progress is measured over time against standard grade level competencies. The State will use a standardized fluency assessment, DIBELS or an equivalent assessment, to evaluate program impact on a large scale in the spring.

  1. The extent to which the SEA will use funds it reserves to identify and engage 1) students who have missed the most in-person instruction during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years; and 2) students who did not consistently participate in remote instruction when offered during school building closures.

Experience Corps’ individualized approach to placing and tracking progress make it an ideal program for identifying those students who have missed the most in-person instruction. Students who missed the most in-person and remote instruction will demonstrate delays in developing fluency skills and in reading comprehension. Funding used to adopt Experience Corps includes identifying the extent of students’ reading delays by the very nature of the program. This is done in several ways. Students are judged as candidates for Experience Corps if they are reading at 1 grade to 1.5 grade behind their near age peers, if they do poorly on benchmark reading screenings, or are referred by teachers who see them struggling to read.  Step one of Experience Corps is to measure a student’s baseline abilities. Tutors use the “Experience Corps App,” a Sales Force, cloud-based data management system to track and monitor student reading progress, including on children’s current reading level (within the Reading A-to-Z Levelled Reading System). These data will be used by program site staff and literacy coaches to make refinements in implementation and strengthen fidelity to the model.


Amplify Education (2021). COVID-19 means more students not learning to read. Author.

Gersten, R., Haymond, K., Newman-Gonchar, R., Dimino, J., & Jayanthi, M. (2020). Meta-analysis of the impact of reading interventions for students in the primary grades. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 13(2), 401–427.

Lee, Y.S., Morrow-Howell, N., Jonson-Reid, M. & McCrary, S. (2010, September 10). The Effect of the Experience Corps® Program on student reading outcomes. Education and Urban Society. DOI: 10.1177/0013124510381262

Neitzel, A., Lake, C., Pellegrini, M., & Slavin, R. (2021). A synthesis of quantitative research on programs for struggling readers in elementary schools. Reading Research Quarterly. doi:10.1002/rrq.379

Nickow, A, Oreopoulos, P., & Quan, V. (2020). The impressive effects of tutoring on preK-12 learning: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Pellegrini, M., Neitzel, A., Lake, C., & Slavin, R. (2021). Effective programs in elementary mathematics: A best-evidence synthesis. AERA Open, 7 (1), 1-29.

Wanzek, J., Vaughn, S., Scammacca, N., Gatlin, B., Walker, M. A., & Capin, P. (2016). Meta-analyses of the effects of tier 2 type reading interventions in grades K-3. Educational Psychology Review, 28(3), 551–576. doi:10.1007/s10648-015-9321-7

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