AARP Foundation

Experience Corps

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Grade Levels Group Size Tutor Type Qualifying Studies Average Effect Size
K-31:1 or small group up to 3Well-trained AmeriCorps Members age 50 and older1+0.13

Contact Info


Groups Studied
Asian American
English Learners
Free and Reduced Lunch

Communities Studied

Program Description

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. AARP Foundation 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. 


AARP Foundation 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 AARP Foundation 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. AARP Foundation Experience Corps provides training, coaching and support for tutors, including monitoring to support the safe and secure conduct of in-person and virtual sessions.


AARP Foundation 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 AFEC 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. 


Schools and sites may share minimal costs with their AARP Foundation Experience Corps program provider. Tutors, materials, and professional development are all included in program costs. In a recent review, about 40% of Experience Corps program providers covered all costs leaving no costs for schools or sites.

Research on Program Outcomes

Researchers from the Washington University in St Louis conducted a rigorous study of AARP Foundation 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 +0.13 and +0.16, respectively.

Key Studies

  • 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

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