Designing an Impact Evaluation of Reading Tutors

2017-2018
Prepared for
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Woman with child reading

Many children’s reading difficulties can be addressed with effective classroom support. This project involves designing an impact evaluation to examine the effectiveness of different ways to train the instructional aides and teacher assistants who tutor children who struggle with reading. These paraprofessionals serve in many different roles, including helping with classroom management, administering assessments, helping to engage parents, providing instructional support to teachers in small-group or one-on-one settings, and assisting with noninstructional activities. By some recent estimates, 730,000 of these paraprofessionals worked in U.S. public schools in 2014, or about one paraprofessional for every four regular classroom teachers.

Mathematica is designing options to provide information to the field about ways to improve the effectiveness and deployment of paraprofessionals using the most credible scientific methods. We are addressing the following questions:

  • What are the most promising and policy-relevant aspects of paraprofessional training programs feasible for study?
  • What target population is of greatest interest to the field, in terms of paraprofessionals, districts, schools, and students?
  • What outcomes are of greatest importance for the field and what are the most credible measures to capture them?
  • Would paraprofessional training program operators be interested in participating in such a study, and how could the study work in existing programs and school districts?