Over the past two years, AARP Foundation Experience Corps (EC) has partnered with Lectio to take a sharp look at their program’s model—to support stronger implementation and greater impact across their coast-to-coast network. Read reflections from EC’s Vice President, Keanne Henry, and the Director of Field Services, David Handy on their strategic improvement efforts and their engagement in our institute and wraparound supports to propel advancement.
What challenges were you facing within your organization’s work and the overall Experience Corps network prior to the Lectio partnership?
In brief, if you had seen one EC program, you would know what one program did in terms of intergenerational tutoring. Consistency was lacking across our network, but even worse, our model was not focused. Our sustained tutoring was very loosely defined, was organized around different priorities across different settings, and did not make the most of volunteers (as non-literacy experts providing literacy intervention support). Because tutoring approaches were so varied, it was impossible to find assessments that accurately measured our results. We relied instead on general measures of overall literacy performance to which we could not articulate our contribution.
What about the Lectio approach resonated with you, and specifically applied to your organization’s and network’s work?
The overall approach to analyzing our model gave us the framework for unpacking our model in an actionable way. This started with a focus on our intended outcome: we were encouraged to refine our broad definition of success (“increased reading proficiency”) toward a more specific skills-based intended outcome (“improvement in developmentally appropriate literacy skills” – and given our target population, a laser-like focus on fluency). Similarly, we were challenged to be more specific across each of the domains in strategic program design. Another big takeaway was the idea of assessing the specific skills covered during tutoring—choosing an assessment that closely reflects what is going on in the session rather than some overall, less clear measure.
What kind of changes have you and your team made as a result of the program analysis you engaged in?
We refined and refocused our tutoring model. We started by working closely with several of the strongest and most effective programs in our network to better understand the program elements that contributed to their success and sustainability. We also carefully studied the program model implemented by our program in Tempe, AZ, that had previously engaged with Lectio and had successfully implemented a tutoring model laser-focused on fluency. By engaging the entire EC network over the past 20 months in collective and iterative program analysis, the Lectio partnership provided the opportunity to understand the research base for the fluency focus and to understand key implementation and accountability strategies, ultimately leading to a network-wide transition to a uniform approach to tutoring and training. What we learned through those efforts propelled us into a network change management initiative. Our national headquarters’ team is far more aligned, and our network is energized around the evolving model.
How are you applying the approach in your continued efforts?
Working closely with our program leaders and with content experts, we revised our model, refined all of our training materials (which is now much more professional and centrally managed), and have invested time on-site supporting programmatic change. We have identified fluency measures that will allow us to directly measure our impact. Within a year or so, we will be totally revising the way we collect and report our results. We have had multiple-level stakeholder conversations to educate them about our evolving model and to engage their support of our local programs. As we move forward, all of our programs will be supported in implementing the more robust model and in continuing to evaluate our work to identify opportunities for further improvements. We have much greater confidence in our ability to scale our model at an accelerated pace and are aggressively seeking new partners.