MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of the biggest challenges in education is overcoming the achievement gap.
Economic status and race are often factors when analyzing the disparity in the academic performance of students.
The Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps are working to make sure all kids succeed.
Lessons learned at an early age shape life’s later successes, and there is an added effort to help students excel at St. Paul City School.
“It’s fantastic,” said reading tutor Phoua Yang. “I’ve seen their growth and their progress.”
She is one of three full-time Minnesota Reading Corps tutors working with pre-K through third graders to help improve literacy skills at the school.
“There are so many needs that walk into every classroom. Twenty-five students, 25 different experiences, and many of these needs are best met at the individualized level and it’s hard to do that with 25 students,” said St. Paul City School Principal Justin Tiarks. “Having an extra partner to come in and intervene in a way that might not be feasible is incredibly valuable and it’s a need we need filled.”
Tiarks says the need at his school is especially important because the majority of students face factors often associated with the achievement gap.
Ninety-seven percent of the students come from low-income families, and English isn’t a first language for 67 percent of the students.
“This is a huge opportunity to address the achievement gap,” Tiarks said. “Our core focus is to get everyone to read at grade level by grade three.”
St. Paul City School isn’t the only school relying on tutors. Next year, the demand for tutors will reach an all-time high in the state.
Minnesota Reading Corps, along with Minnesota Math Corps, are now in the recruiting process, hoping to put 2,000 new tutors in schools the state.
“Anyone can do it. We can have high school students doing a gap year, college students thinking about going into education. We have people who are thinking of career change. We even have retirees,” said Julian Quanrud, program director at Minnesota Reading Corps.
Recruits who are accepted into the program are given training and then spend time in the classroom with two coaches before they are left to tutor on their own.
Part- and full-time opportunities are available. The positions are paid, but Quanrud says the benefits are intangible.
“We’ll work with 35,000 students this year and the opportunity to help those kids get the tools they need to be successful is incredible,” Quanrud said. “We know students need to be able to read to be able to learn by fourth grade.”
On this day, Yang’s students are in Pre-K and she’s focusing on developing their vocabulary, word recognition, rhyming and alliteration. She’s using flash cards and games to help with her lessons.
“Before, a lot of them couldn’t tell me what the words were back. Now, it’s like their vocabulary is growing and they can tell me every picture, so it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re getting it!'” Yang said.
She sees the success of the added attention and knows the rewards of tutoring aren’t reserved for just the students.
“I get so happy,” Yang said. “They’re getting it and it’s just amazing.”
Click here to learn more about Minnesota’s Reading and Math Corps, or to apply to become a tutor. You can also call 866-859-2825.