Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



This report shares the results of a project designed to help build the collective capacity and increase the impact of the external support providers working to improve K-3 reading outcomes in New York City public elementary schools. In the first phase of the project, we identified all the programs in what we call the K-3 reading improvement sector in NYC 2014-15. In the second phase, we examined the extent to which a sample of these programs have the goals, resources, and personnel to improve reading outcomes system-wide. In the third phase, we mapped the relationships among a sample of programs in the sector in 2016-17, the sources they rely on to support their work, and the NYC schools with whom they partner. Making these relationships visible shows the extent to which students from different backgrounds and schools can get access to information, resources, and expertise, and the extent to which programs are in a position to increase their collective impact through coordination and collaboration.

Among the findings:

  • Over 100 programs are working in the K-3 Reading Improvement Sector in NYC
  • The sample programs in the sector focus on a wide range of reading-related goals, but a limited number of programs have demonstrated effectiveness
  • Twenty-six sample programs are connected to 161 different schools comprising 16% of all elementary schools in NYC (including 28% of the elementary schools in the Bronx and 26% of the elementary schools in Manhattan); and the programs are partnering with schools with relatively high levels of need in terms of both performance and poverty
  • Just over half of the sample programs describe themselves as collaborating or partnering with at least one other sample program, but almost half were not in regular contact with any other sample program
  • Sample programs received support from 57 different funders and 75 different sources for literacy expertise with little overlap

These results suggest that sector programs have the goals, services, and personnel that could help improve K-3 reading outcomes in New York City; they have the connections to share resources and expertise with a large percentage of elementary schools; and several clusters of connected programs could serve as a powerful force for increased focus and collaboration in reading improvement across the city.

However, the collective impact of the sector suffers from the evidence that goals vary considerably. Student and teacher programs differ in terms of their goals and personnel, and only a few programs have had formal outside evaluations completed. In addition, many of the sample programs in the sector are working in isolation from other sample programs and are informed by a wide range of sources of funding and expertise that are themselves likely to be only loosely connected. Although the clusters of collaborating and frequently connected programs could serve as a basis for expansion within the sector, the unconnected programs and the disparate sources of funding and expertise suggest that explicit strategies will need to be developed to support greater coherence in the sector and to increase the effectiveness of the sector overall.


Grade Level Reading



Date Posted: 11 February 2019