Tutoring Buddy

Study: Volpe, Burns, DuBois, & Zaslofsky (2011)

Volpe, R. J., Burns, M. K., DuBois, M. & Zaslofsky, A. F. (2011). Computer-assisted tutoring: Teaching letter sounds to kindergarten students using incremental rehearsal. Psychology in the Schools, 48, 332-342.
Descriptive Information Usage Acquisition and Cost Program Specifications and Requirements Training

This evidence-based intervention aims to improve early literacy skills. 

Tutoring Buddy is intended for use in grades preK-1. The program is intended for use with any student at risk of academic failure. The academic area of focus is early literacy, including print knowledge/awareness, alphabet knowledge, and phonological awareness. 

Where to obtain:
Twin Lights Education, LLC. 

6 Oakland Ave., Rockport, MA 01966
Phone: 617-602-5626

Website: http://www.tutoringbuddyk12.com/  

Cost: Approximately $20 per student for unlimited use for one academic year.

Use of the system including the iOS app, web app, and online training materials and support is $399 per year per grade-level in the school. An entire school can use the program for $499 per year- the number of students and number of sessions is unlimited.

It is recommended Tutoring Buddy is used with individual students.

Tutoring Buddy takes on average 5 minutes per session with a recommended 3-4 sessions per week for results after 6 weeks.

The program includes a highly specified teacher’s manual.

Tutoring Buddy runs native on the iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), but also runs as a mobile enabled web-app that can be run on any computer or tablet.

A minimum of 1-4 hours of training is required for instructors. Training can be accomplished via a web-based or in app training materials. It involves reading the procedures, and practicing the pronunciation of each letter sound. Correct pronunciation is modeled by the software.

Tutoring Buddy was designed to be completed by anyone. The program does not assume that the instructor has expertise in any given area.

Updated training manuals and materials are available, that have been used with both graduate research assistants and parents.

Practitioners receive an email address and calls are answered within 24 hours by one of the two developers. 


Participants: Unconvincing Evidence

Risk Status: Students were identified as being at risk for academic failure through flat response on weekly Letter Sound Fluency Assessments.



Age/ Grade



Socioeconomic status

Disability Status

ELL status

Other Relevant Descriptive Characteristics

Case 1: Jenny

6 years old, Kindergarten






No other details provided (Volpe, Burns, DuBois, & Zaslofsky, 2011).

Case 2: Mary

5 years old, Kindergarten


White, Hispanic




No other details provided (Volpe, Burns, DuBois, & Zaslofsky, 2011).

Case 3: Andy

6 years old, Kindergarten






No other details provided (Volpe, Burns, DuBois, & Zaslofsky, 2011).

Case 4: Renee

6 years old, Kindergarten






No other details provided (Volpe, Burns, DuBois, & Zaslofsky, 2011).

Training of Instructors: Interventionists were four school psychology graduate students taking a course in academic interventions as part of their graduate studies. Training was limited to a 1 hour training session with the first author.

Design: Partially Convincing Evidence

Does the study include three data points or sufficient number to document a stable performance within that phase? Yes

Is there opportunity for at least three demonstrations of experimental control? Yes

If the study is an alternating treatment design, are there five repetitions of the alternating sequence? NA

If the study is a multiple baseline, is it concurrent? Yes

Fidelity of Implementation: Partially Convincing Evidence

Description of when and how fidelity of treatment information was obtained: CWPT/KPALS. Procedural checklists containing all components of the K-PALS implementation were completed by a graduate student for approximately 25% of K-PALS lessons. The number of items on the treatment integrity checklist varied because activities varied across lessons. While observing intervention sessions, the graduate student coded whether each component was performed by the teacher or kindergarten student.

Tutoring Buddy. Treatment integrity data were gathered for 20% of intervention sessions by having a second graduate student complete a procedural checklist as he or she observed the tutor implementing the intervention. The total number of steps observed was divided by the total number of 33 possible steps.

Results on the fidelity of treatment implementation measure: In all, 12 K-PALS checklists were completed. The average treatment fidelity was 91% (range = 81%–100%). Treatment integrity for the Tutoring Buddy sessions was 99.9% (range =  97%–100%) across the intervention’s components.

Measures Targeted: Convincing Evidence

Measures Broader: Data Unavailable

Targeted  Measure Reliability Statistics Relevance to Program Focus Exposure to Related Content Among Control Group

Letter Sound Expression (LSE; Twin Lights Education, 2009)     

Test retest based on ICC over 4 consecutive days (.97). Criterion-related validity coefficients with Letter Sound Fluency and Nonsense Word Fluency were .80 and .74 respectively (DuBois & Volpe, 2016).     

Each Tutoring Buddy session begins with the LSE assessment. Data from the assessment is used to identify the known and unknown facts to be targeted by Tutoring Buddy. It also serves as a progress monitoring measure.

This was a within design, but all students were receiving core instruction and K-PALS over the course of the study. In addition LSF was assessed weekly over the course of the study.

Letter Sound Fluency (NCS, Pearson, 2012) Test retest = .85 (2 week latency); Alternate form = .82); Predictive validity (3 Year latency) = .61 with CBM-R; between .33 and .52 with comprehensive state tests. Tutoring Buddy uses incremental rehearsal, but presents known and unknown letters in a string. It impacts both acquisition and fluency. All students were receiving core instruction and K-PALS over the course of the study. In addition LSF was assessed weekly over the course of the study.     
Broader Measure Reliability Statistics Relevance to Program Focus Exposure to Related Content Among Control Group




Number of Outcome Measures: 2 Prereading

Mean ES - Targeted: N/A

Mean ES - Broader: N/A

Effect Size:

Visual Analysis (Single Subject Design): Partially Convincing Evidence

Description of the method of analyses used to determine whether the intervention condition improved relative to baseline phase (e.g. visual analysis, computation of change score, mean difference): Visual inspection and PAND, phi, and Cohen’s d. We also calculated slope during baseline and intervention phases.

Results in terms of within and between phase patterns: LSF data for the four participating students are presented graphically in Figure 3. Baseline data indicate that children began the study with no measurable fluency in letter sounds and, although three students demonstrated near or above expected growth rates for kindergarten students of 0.6 letter sounds correct per minute (NCS Pearson, 2010), given their level of performance, their rate of growth was not sufficient to meet the spring benchmark of 37 letter sounds per minute. Specifically, the baseline slopes for Jenny, Mary, Andy, and Renee indicating their weekly growth were .57, 1.05, .48, and .78, respectively. A visual inspection of the data suggests that immediate improvements in LSF were demonstrated by three of the four students as a function of the IR intervention. The fourth student (Mary) appeared to have demonstrated a more delayed response. Notable changes in level and trend were found for each student. Slopes for Jenny, Mary, Andy, and Renee each improved in the IR condition (2.32, 4.5, 1.7, and 3.5, respectively). Percentage of all non-overlapping data (PAND; Parker, Hagan-Burke, & Vannest, 2007) was computed as a nonparametric estimate of the size of the effect and resulted in 91% of the total data not overlapping. This result converts to a phi (φ) coefficient of .82 and a Cohen’s (1988) d of 2.87.

Disaggregated Data for Demographic Subgroups: No

Disaggregated Data for <20th Percentile: No

Administration Group Size: Individual

Duration of Intervention: 5 minutes, 3-4 times a week, 6+ weeks

Minimum Interventionist Requirements: No minimum qualification for instructor, 1-4 hours of training required

Reviewed by WWC or E-ESSA: E-ESSA

What Works Clearinghouse Review

This program was not reivewed by What Works Clearinghouse.


Evidence for ESSA

No studies considered met Evidence for ESSA's inclusion requirements.


Other Research: Potentially Eligible for NCII Review: 0 studies