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Letter to the editor

Alumna encourages help to close achievement gap

December 16, 2011

We often hear about the achievement gap. We know that it exists. But, does it really affect us? Is there anything we can really do to combat it? Well, for Minnesotan students it’s something that affects them before they even enter Kindergarten. They can’t get away from it. A Nov. 20 Minnesota public Radio article states that “The Minnesota Readiness Study finds children of color and children who live in poverty are less likely to be considered ready for kindergarten than white students and those living above the poverty line.” That doesn’t sit very well with me. So I did something about it.

My four years as a UW-River Falls student didn’t teach me to sit back and do nothing when I saw injustice in my community. After graduating in 2010, I made a decision to be part of the solution. I am working as a Reading Corps literacy tutor at the Heights Community School in St. Paul, Minnesota. Minnesota Reading Corps (and our sister program Minnesota Math Corps) is taking real, tangible steps to close the achievement gap. Our research based strategies for learning are aimed at helping students succeed and achieve. We, as literacy and math tutors, are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of the students in our communities.

Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps are AmeriCorps State programs that provide targeted tutoring using research based interventions and strategies. Often described as the domestic version of Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is a national service organization with about 100,000 members serving in a variety of programs throughout the United States each year. Minnesota Reading Corps tutors work with students age three through grade three to improve their reading skills. Minnesota Math Corps tutors work with students in fourth through eighth grade who are struggling with math.

Piloted in 2003, Reading Corps has since expanded from 25 to 770 members and is reaching about 20,000 children at over 450 different sites across Minnesota during the 2011- 12 school year. Since 2007, Math Corps has reached close to 2,000 kids by training and placing much-needed tutors in schools in St. Cloud, East Central Minnesota and the Twin Cities. With nearly 70 tutors placed in the 2011-12 school year, the program is projected to reach even more students than previous years.

Reading Corps members work as one-on-one or small group tutors to students who are below reading proficiency or at risk of falling behind. Throughout their year of service, tutors receive extensive training to work with, track and guide struggling readers’ progress toward literacy. Math Corps curriculum focuses on what each individual student needs to improve on, and on building confidence in the student that he or she can learn and succeed with math. Tutors receive ongoing training in math instruction methods and support during their service. They are never left to invent their own lessons or assessments.

Reading Corps and Math Corps positions are not permanent jobs; they’re a temporary service. Members make an 11-month commitment during which they receive a modest living allowance and education award. Full-time members may also receive health insurance.

My year with Minnesota Reading Corps has forever changed me. I have seen students succeed as a result of the one-on-one literacy tutoring that they receive every day. The statistics don’t lie. The achievement gap exists. But, I’m not willing to stand by and let it widen. Are you? Take the next step and learn more about Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps. Your decision could affect students across Minnesota.

The application for the 2012-13 school year opens on Dec. 15. Go to joinreadingcorps.org or joinmathcorps.org to apply. Or if you would like more information on either program, email recruitment@mnedc.org.

Caroline Buechter
Alumna

Comments

Sarah Pollock on 16 Jan 2012: Any time there is a chance for one-on-one help, the chance for comprehension increases. This is why I think class sizes are one of the most important issues that can help achievemnent.

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