SPARK (now renamed Future Forward), developed by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee (BGCGM) in 2005, is an early grade literacy intervention for students in high-poverty schools. As a school-community-family partnership strategy, this program seeks to improve K-3 students’ literacy skills through in-school one-on-one tutoring provided by AmeriCorps volunteers or college students with family engagement.
Jones and Christian evaluated the effect of SPARK in 7 public schools in Milwaukee serving primarily low-income students of color. They randomly assigned 576 participating students in grades K-2 into either the intervention or the comparison groups. Most students were African American (79.7 %), and 95.3% qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. For those eligible to participate, most of them (85%) were not proficient in reading at baseline. After 2 years of implementation, the results indicated that:
- SPARK was found to have significantly positive effect on foundational literacy skills (PALS: ES = +0.23) and regular school day attendance.
- However, there were no significant impacts on reading achievement (MAP: ES = +0.10) after two years.
- Students performing in the bottom half at baseline who received SPARK were also found to have better foundational literacy skills (ES = +0.46), but no significant impacts on attendance or reading achievement.
This study provides further evidence supporting the use of in-school tutoring to accelerate literacy learning for students, particularly those performing below grade level.
Source: Jones, C. J., & Christian, M. (2021). The Results of a Randomized Control Trial Evaluation of the SPARK Literacy Program: An Innovative Approach that Pairs One-on-One Tutoring with Family Engagement. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 26(3), 185–209. https://doi.org/10.1080/10824669.2020.1809419