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Literacy First – UT Austin

Essa Rating
No. Studies
No. Students
Average Effect Size

Program Description

Literacy First (formerly AmeriCorps for Community Engagement and Education, then A Community for Education) is an early literacy intervention program that provides trained tutors for students in kindergarten through grade 2, largely in the Austin, Texas area. The program identifies students reading below grade level each fall and provides tutoring across the school year. Tutors receive more than 70 hours of training in best practices and weekly visits from Literacy First experts and coaches. 50% of Literacy First’s tutors are bilingual, allowing the program to provide support to both Spanish- and English-speaking students. Tutors work with their students daily in 30 minutes sessions that are tailored to address individual literacy/language needs. Literacy First is data driven, with tutors using a response-to-intervention model that involves benchmark assessments and weekly progress monitoring. In addition, attendance and program fidelity and implementation data are collected to inform both individualization for students and programmatic impact.

Program Outcomes

An evaluation, employing a multisite randomized controlled trial, of Literacy First was conducted in grades K-2 within 22 elementary schools in the Austin Independent School District. Students scoring at the Tier 2 level on literacy assessments, were randomly assigned, within each grade at each school, to the treatment group that received Literacy First tutoring or the control group that conducted “business as usual,” which could include other types of assistance available in participating schools. Because tutors administered the post assessments in grades K and 1, only the 2nd grade sample is included in the results for Evidence for ESSA. Nearly 800 2nd grade students participated in the study – over 90% were identified as economically disadvantaged, 88% were Hispanic, 69% limited English proficient, and 10% received special education services. On average across sites, students receiving Literacy First tutoring scored significantly higher on the ITBS passage comprehension than students in these sites who did not receive Literacy First tutoring (effect size = +0.19, p < .05). A follow-up analysis was conducted in Grade 3 showing Literacy First students scoring higher on the STAAR Grade 3 Reading (effect size = +0.21). The significant results in grade 2, qualify Literacy First for the ESSA “Strong” category.

Staffing Requirements

One full-time supervisor per 20 FT tutors @ five campuses.

Professional Development/Training

Tutors receive 70+ hours of training on evidence-based best practices in early literacy instruction.


Program is delivered in person. Virtual training and professional support is available when needed.