Evaluation of the Milwaukee Community Literacy Project/SPARK Program

Tutor and student happily displaying items from their learning session.

The need for increased literacy opportunities in the Milwaukee area is urgent. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress only 15% of 4th grade Milwaukee Public School students are proficient in reading. In an effort to address this need, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Public Schools were awarded an Investing in Innovations (i3) grant from the Department of Education to implement the Milwaukee Community Literacy Project, also known as the SPARK (Spheres of Proud Achievement in Reading for Kids) Program.

Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students are selected to participate in SPARK for two years and receive one-on-one tutoring, access to literacy-focused after-school, and parents are provided opportunities to be engaged in the literacy development of their children.

The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee is conducting an independent evaluation of SPARK. Through a randomized control design, the evaluation is able to isolate the impact of SPARK on reading achievement by comparing the achievement growth of randomly selected participants with control students.

The results from the first cohort of students that completed SPARK are promising. SPARK was found to have a significant impact on the overall reading achievement of “early reader” participants. Although SPARK had an impact on several components of literacy development it had its largest impact on the phonics development of students. The results suggest that SPARK may represent one resource that the Milwaukee Public Schools could use to help improve the literacy proficiency of its students.

Read More: Research Report – Evaluation of the Milwaukee Community Literacy Project/SPARK Program: Findings from the First Cohort (PDF)

Research Brief – Evaluation of the Milwaukee Community Literacy Project/SPARK Program: Interim Findings from the Second Cohort (PDF)

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Or contact Christina Makal McCaffery at (414) 229-4963 or cmmakal@uwm.edu to explore opportunities to support students, ensure research excellence and enable ongoing collaborations with community schools and organizations.