About this page

GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.

The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that (for the time being), we won't be prioritizing the organization in question as potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charities. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.

A note on this page's publication date

The last time we examined the charities working primarily in the U.S. was in 2010. As of 2011, we have de-prioritized further work on this cause.

The content we created in 2010 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about the organization and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions.

Published: 2010

What do they do?

Experience Corps runs a tutoring program, bringing adults (generally age 55+) into elementary schools to tutor struggling students.1 Experience Corps has approximately 2,000 tutors working in 22 cities in the United States.2 These tutors serve approximately 20,000 students nationwide.3 Experience Corps aims to serve schools with low-income students.4

Teachers select students who need extra assistance and send them out of class to work with the tutors one-on-one.5

Experience Corps recruits and vets potential tutors, and then trains and supervises them.6

Some Experience Corps tutors receive stipends of $100-200 per month.7 Tutors are normally (not universally) over the age of 55.8

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is reasonable independent evidence for the general effectiveness of programs that provide volunteer tutoring; for more, see our evidence review for volunteer tutoring. In addition, Experience Corps, itself, has been the subject of two randomized controlled trials, though we only find one (the first listed below) to be a high-quality study. (Note: We focus here on standardized measures of student ability. We don't report either (a) teacher-reported effects on students' abilities, or (b) impacts on the volunteers themselves.)

  • Morrow-Howell et al. 2009 conducted a randomized controlled trial of the Experience Corps program in three cities.9 23 schools participated in the study.10 Programs in all three cities served children in kindergarten through 3rd grade; the program in Boston also served children in 4th and 5th grade. The study focused on 1st through 3rd graders.11 The study assessed students' reading ability at the beginning of the school year and again at the end of the school year, 12 and used several standardized tests.13 Attrition from the study was low: only 7% of participants dropped out of the study.14

    The study found a statistically significant effect (at p<.05) on one of four measures; the effect size on "grade-specific reading" was .16 standard deviations.15

  • Rebok et al. 2004. In this evaluation, six public schools were randomly assigned to the evaluation; three received the Experience Corps program, and three did not.16 Because randomization occurred at the school level, we feel that the effective sample size here is too small for the study to be meaningful (3 schools receiving the program vs. 3 schools not receiving it).

What do you get for your dollar?

In 2009, Experience Corps had total costs of $1,343,936.17 Currently, Experience Corps has 2,000 tutors serving approximately 20,000 students.18 Each tutor must commit to spending 15 hours per week with students.19 These figures imply that Experience Corps spends $67 per student (who receives 1.5 hours of tutoring per week) per year.

Sources

  • 1.

    "The Experience Corps program brings older adults aged 55+ into public elementary schools to tutor and mentor children who are at risk of academic failure. The EC program began in 1995 in five cities and has grown to include 23 sites. Currently, there are nearly 2,000 EC tutors serving approximately 20,000 students. Older adults are recruited to serve in this program and receive training to prepare them for their service assignments, focused on literacy and relationship building. Each Experience Corps volunteer, or “member,” is assigned as part of a team to a local elementary school participating in the program. At the beginning of the school year, teachers refer low-achieving students to the program; and EC members begin regular tutoring with the children." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 3.

  • 2.

    "2,000 Experience Corps members tutor and mentor in 22 cities across the country, providing literacy coaching, homework help, consistent role models and committed, caring attention." Experience Corps, "About Us."

  • 3.

    "Currently, there are nearly 2,000 EC tutors serving approximately 20,000 students." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 5.

  • 4.

    "A focus on elementary schools, particularly in the inner-city because of the academic and social needs of low-income children." Experience Corps, "History."

    In Morrow-Howell et al. (2009)'s sample, 93% of students received free or reduced lunch. Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 12.

  • 5.

    "In regard to the essential elements of the EC program, there are similarities among the three sites. Across all three cities, the EC intervention is a one-to-one pull-out program—meaning the tutors work individually with children, most commonly in space outside of the classroom, but sometimes in a more private place in the classroom. Teachers refer students in need of reading assistance." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 6

  • 6.

    "The tutors use a structured curriculum and materials provided by the EC program. The EC members are generally recruited and screened in the same way. EC program coordinators in all three cities take applications, conduct interviews, check references and require a criminal background check. The program coordinators provide comprehensive training and on-going supervision of the tutors. There are regular support/training meetings with the EC staff and members, and EC members receive a performance evaluation. In all three programs, EC staff members provide coordination between the EC tutors and the classroom teachers." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 6

  • 7.
    • "Incentives in the form of a stipend (which ranged from $100 to $200 a month, depending on the city) for volunteers who served at least 15 hours a week." Experience Corps, "FAQ."
    • "The incentives provided to Experience Corps members have often included a small stipend for those who work at least 15 hours a week. The stipend can amount to a quarter or more of a project's budget, but the incentive makes a difference for most Experience Corps members. Many of the volunteers are under 65 and not yet receiving Medicare or full Social Security. Their stipend pays for program-related expenses such as transportation to and from school, and also covers some of their own monthly expenses. Experience Corps is a former program of Civic Ventures. It became an independent nonprofit in 2009." Experience Corps, "FAQ."
  • 8.

    "Experience Corps members are typically over 55, though some current members range in age from late 40s to early 90s. All potential Experience Corps members are asked to complete an application and participate in an interview and background check. For detailed information about the application process in your area, visit the city page. Members are chosen based on their willingness to participate in all aspects of the program." Experience Corps, "FAQ."

  • 9.

    "This evaluation focused on the EC program in three cities: Boston, New York, and Port Arthur, Texas." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 5.

    "A two group, pre-post test design with random assignment was used to assess the effects of the EC program. At the beginning of the school year, teachers were asked to refer all students who needed assistance with reading and not constrain the list to match the capacity of the program. Thus, more students were referred than could be served. The names of the referred students were sent to MPR, who sent letters to parents, seeking written permission for the student to participate in the study. MPR applied a lottery system to the referred names to determine which students would be in the EC program (see Appendix B for randomization summary). The selected student names were sent to EC program coordinators to assign tutors and begin tutoring sessions." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 7.

  • 10.

    Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pgs 5-6.

  • 11.

    "All three programs serve 1st through 3rd grade, although Boston also serves 4th and 5th graders. All cities serve kindergartners, but with various emphases. In this evaluation, we focused on 1st through 3rd grades to achieve adequate subsample size by grade. Details of the Boston, New York, and Port Arthur EC programs are presented in Appendix A." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 6.

  • 12.

    "All study participants were pretested as early in the semester as possible. Pretesting occurred from mid-September to end of November. By the end of October, MPR had completed pretesting on 72% of the sample, in all three cities. We attempted to posttest all students beginning one month before the end of the school year, even if they had moved within the district during the academic year." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 7.

  • 13.
    • Woodcock Johnson word attack subscale (WJ-WA): "WJ-WA sub-test assesses the student's phonemic awareness skills."
    • Woodcock Johnson passage comprehension subscale (WJ-PC): "The WJ-PC sub-test assesses the student's overall skill at understanding text"
    • Peabody Picture Vocabulary test (PPVT-III): "The PPVT-III measures receptive or hearing vocabulary for Standard American English and estimates verbal ability"

    Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pgs 8-9.

  • 14.

    "Fifty-nine students – about 7% of the pretest sample – dropped out of the study. This attrition was equally distributed across the EC and control groups. Attrition from the EC and control groups was equal (30 EC students and 29 control students). Those who completed posttest did not differ from those who dropped out in terms of major demographic variables." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 10.

  • 15.

    "Table 4 presents findings on statistical tests of the differences between the gains experienced by the EC students and controls. The posttest scores were corrected for pretest scores as well as other covariates, including gender, ethnicity, grade, program site, classroom behavior, IEP, and LEP. On the WJ-passage comprehension measure and grade-specific reading skills, the changes made by EC students were statistically more positive than the changes made by control students (p<.05). Effect sizes associated with these gains are .13 and .16, respectively. An effect size of .16 indicates that the average gain of the EC students exceeded the gain of 56.4% of the control students. The group difference on word attack was marginally significant (p < .07), with an associated effect size of .10." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 14.

    Reproduction of Table 4

    Adjusted posttest reading scores in Experience Corps intervention group and control group, and impact of Experience Corps
    Outcome Intervention group (Experience Corps) adjusted posttest mean Control group adjusted posttest mean Impact (difference between intervention and control group test scores) Effect size (Hedge's G)
    WJ word attack 95.79 94.20 1.59 (p=0.07) 0.10
    WJ passage comprehension 88.69 87.17 1.52 (p=0.04) 0.13
    PPVT 82.72 82.70 0.03 (p=0.95) 0.002
    Grade-specific reading 2.76 2.66 0.10 (p=0.004) 0.16
  • 16.

    "The Experience Corps–Baltimore program was implemented in six public elementary schools in Baltimore in November 1999 in a partnership between investigators at the Johns Hopkins University and the Greater Homewood Community Corporation, an umbrella community organization serving 43 neighborhood organizations in northern Baltimore City.

    The six participating schools agreed to be randomly assigned, and three were randomly selected to receive the Experience Corps–Baltimore program (Dallas Nicholas, Abbotston, and Guilford Elementary schools) or not (Barclay, Mildred Monroe, and Margaret Brent Elementary schools) during the first year. A total of 1,194 children in grades K–3 from these schools were assessed in fall 1999/winter 2000 and, at follow-up, in spring/summer 2000." Rebok et al. 2004, Pgs 82-83.

  • 17.

    Experience Corps, "IRS Form 990 (2009)."

  • 18.

    "Currently, there are nearly 2,000 EC tutors serving approximately 20,000 students." Morrow-Howell et al. 2009, Pg 5.

  • 19.

    "How much time must an Experience Corps member commit?

    Experience Corps projects provide multiple options for service. Some require a minimum of four hours per week while others require members to serve at least 15 hours a week for a minimum of one school year. Visit your city page to learn about the requirements in your area. In return for providing intensive service, most members receive a small stipend designed to cover transportation, lunch, and service-related expenses. Many Experience Corps members are semi-retired, working part-time, or have family commitments. Experience Corps members may move from one commitment level to another as their life circumstances change." Experience Corps, "FAQ."