Reading Corps tutors who are interested in the field of early childhood development now have another great reason to serve: the opportunity to earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential at no cost. The benefit is set up in a way that provides support while getting the CDA and makes earning the credential simple and affordable.
“Traditionally, if you wanted to get your CDA, you’d have to find a place to get classroom experience,” said Alison Zellmar, Associate Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships for Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps. “Candidates are then faced with finding a place to get training, signing up for a verification visit and completing a portfolio on their own,” she continued. “In all, it would cost you about $2,500.”
Inspired by a similar project developed by Michigan Reading Corps, the Minnesota program launched last fall with a target audience of candidates new to the field of childcare and early childhood education. “We wanted to utilize the structure already in our program, and then add a little bit more, so that members have a very coherent and clear path to getting their credential,” Zellmer said. By participating in the program, people get classroom experience, 120 hours of training and an easy pathway to earning the CDA credential. “All they have to do is show up,” she said. “We take care of the logistics, and provide provide support around preparing your portfolio.”
The nationally-recognized credential prepares people for a career in early childhood and prepares them to work in classrooms with students. It is considered the first step in training for an early childhood development career. Sadie O’Connor, Managing Director of Reading Corps and Math Corps, said the CDA program will ultimately help to create a pipeline of qualified and highly effective educators to classrooms across the state.
“We’re excited to launch this new initiative to provide our Reading Corps tutors with a pathway into early childhood teaching,” O’Connor said. “The experience of being a tutor with our program along with the additional training we’ll provide to earn their CDA will position these candidates to be prepared to be highly effective early childhood educators.”
Do you have questions about applying for the Reading Corps CDA program? Contact Alison Jirik at email@example.com.
firstname.lastname@example.orgReading Corps Tutors Can Now Earn a CDA Through This New Program
Principal Jim Stang, of Holdingford Elementary, has had the same two tutors for the past four school years. As both the principal and internal coach for Reading Corps, Stang has a unique perspective on what it takes to recruit and retain tutors. Although he’ll insist that his success boils down to having two incredible tutors — this spring he’ll begin to focus on recruiting their replacements. He was gracious enough to chat with us to share his thoughts on tutor retention and recruitment.
Find the right fit. As a small town (population 717) about 30 minutes from the nearest university, Stang says parents with children in the district are his best prospects. “They want to be in our building and on the same schedule as their kids,” he says. Stang is also trying to be more intentional about connecting with recent high school grads. “Rather than driving 40 minutes to work somewhere else, why not save that time and gas money to do some good here at home?” He notes that with the increased stipend for 2020-21 and the added perk of an education award, it’s a competitive option for some of Holdingford’s recent graduates.
Put everyone on the same team. As both principal and internal coach, Stang knows that everyone needs to understand they are part of the same team. He summarizes the mindset by saying, “We share these students and are focused on doing what is best for them.” At Holdingford Elementary that means tutors are invited to staff meetings, regularly share data with classroom teachers and celebrate successes with the entire school.
Make space. “Space is limited in our buildings, and we’ve all seen things like speech clinicians sitting outside a classroom working on IEP goals,” Stang notes. Having a dedicated space for tutors to work with students on interventions not only helps them feel valued but makes them more effective. This year Stang decided they had exhausted all other options and the best solution was to give up his office. He says he’s pleased with how it’s working out but jokes that the elementary secretary is ready to have him back in his office and out of her hair!
Put it front and center. “We make sure Reading Corps is in our school newsletter and on social media, but we also include them in conferences, parent nights and other events like Grandparents Day,” Stang says. “Grandparents Day brings 800 people to our building – so it’s a great opportunity to get in front of people.”
Celebrate Success. “Our tutors do a great job of celebrating their students and making a big deal of it when students graduate the program,” Stang shares. Although his schedule doesn’t often allow him to attend, he does his part by sending home a handwritten postcard with a balloon or small treat.
After four years together, Stang says the thought of saying goodbye to his tutors this June is heartbreaking. Although it’s going to be tough moving on, there is a silver lining. Stang knows he’s got a great pipeline should other roles become available in the district. “When we are hiring, former tutors get my strongest endorsement!”
Need More Ideas? Check out these quick and easy tutor retention tips:
Tell your tutor you’d love to have them come back for another year of service!
Drop a thank you card in their mailbox letting them know what an impact they are making.
Celebrate AmeriCorps Week (March 8-14, 2020). Whether a shout out in daily announcements, blurb in the school newsletter, a breakfast treat left at their desk or photo submitted to your local paper, let them know you value their service!
Ask students to draw a picture or write a thank you note.
Create a bulletin board celebrating Reading Corps/Math Corps and all the students who have improved their skills.
email@example.comHow to Recruit and Retain Your Tutors: Interview with Principal Jim Stang
Minnesota Math Corps and ServeMinnesota –– our partner in AmeriCorps service and program development — are committed to continually evaluating our programs to ensure they are as impactful as possible, and a perfect example of this concept in action can be found in research on Math Corps.
Math Corps, which was established in 2008, is a program that serves students in grades 4-8 who need extra help in math and is provided free and during the school day to eliminate barriers to attendance. Math Corps is already a marquis program for schools: two large-scale evaluations found that Math Corps students who received Math Corps tutoring made significantly larger gains in math skills than comparable students who did not receive Math Corps tutoring. They were two times more likely to achieve math fact fluency and two times more likely to meet end-of-year math benchmarks. In these studies, researchers found Math Corps students were a semester ahead of their expected trajectory and getting on track for the academic and career success associated with math proficiency.
firstname.lastname@example.orgEvidence-Based Practices Boost Students’ Math Skills in Math Corps
As the new year approaches, it is time to start planning for the next school year. Yes, it seems early, but actually, the best principals begin planning for the next school year in January. I know how busy you principals are EVERY time of the year, and so here is an abbreviated list to get you started for 2020-2021 school year.
email@example.com Ways to Be a High-Performing Principal in Reading Corps and Math Corps
Editor’s Note: In the 2019 Minnesota Legislative Session, principal Ariana Wright testified on behalf of Minnesota Math Corps in order to help secure funding for the future. Read how Math Corps has impacted her students at Kasson-Mantorville Elementary School.
Madame Chairperson, members of the committee. My name is Ariana Wright and I am the principal at Kasson-Mantorville Elementary school. We are a K-4 building with 840 students. We are located near Rochester in a rural setting with a growing population of newcomers and English learners – some that have not been in schools for years.
Districts are continuously searching for high quality math intervention resources that aren’t just rote practice – but offer a true understanding of numbers and number concepts.
firstname.lastname@example.orgLegislative Testimony from Ariana Wright, Principal at Kasson-Mantorville
Minnesota students’ declining math scores are a worry for so many reasons: The math courses that students take in high school are strongly related to students’ earnings around 10 years later, even after taking account of demographics, family and school characteristics, as well as the student’s highest educational degree attained, college major and occupation. And more complex courses are associated with a larger influence on wages and post-secondary enrollment.
email@example.comPreK Math Pilot Shows Significant Results
Over 18 million minutes of interventions in reading and math. We placed tutors in more than 600 schools across the state of Minnesota who collectively provided over 18 million minutes of interventions to students who needed extra support. 18 million minutes — this is pretty spectacular! We believe that every instructional minute counts, and we are so grateful to be welcomed into your buildings to provide this additional support to your students.
Students making academic progress. Students participating in Reading Corps and Math Corps made incredible progress and growth last school year.
firstname.lastname@example.org Take-Aways from the 2018-19 Program Evaluation
In 2015, schools were given the chance to begin using a sophisticated data management system (or DMS) to track students in Reading Corps’ progress and outcomes, and now, schools will have the same opportunity to do so with students in Math Corps as a new Math Corps Data Management system (MCDMS) launches across Minnesota this fall.
email@example.comA New Data Management System for Math Corps Offers Increased Data Gathering Power
Remember the commercial, “There’s an app for that”? Math Corps tutors are about to start quoting it quite a bit as a new math app (which will eventually receive a more creative name) rolls out over the next school year.
The app was a natural way to help deliver math interventions, said Benjamin Swift, the information systems expert who has helped develop the new app for Math Corps.
firstname.lastname@example.orgMath Corps Students Get a New High-Tech Way to Boost Fact Fluency
Peter Nelson, Ph.D., is the Director of Research and Innovation at ServeMinnesota, where he engages with programs including Reading Corps and Math Corps to ensure key principles of effective implementation and evidence-building occur. In this interview, we discussed how Nelson’s team was able to implement a new assessment strategy to help improve learning outcomes for students in Reading Corps.
Using Assessment to Understand a Problem
Reading Corps is a program that has been around for 15+ years in order to help younger elementary students read at grade level. The program’s tutors use different strategies, or interventions, to help the students. How do we assess how those students are doing?
Peter Nelson: In our K-3 Reading Corps model, we use brief measures of students’ literacy skill to get a sense of how they are doing across time. They practice during each session five days a week, but also complete the brief assessments once each week. Each score gets plotted on a graph. We compare those scores to what we call an aim line, which is line drawn from where they start in the fall to a benchmark in the spring linked to future college readiness and mastering proficiency.
When three of the last five weekly scores are above that aim line, and two of those scores are above the next benchmark, students are exited from the program. For example, if you exit in March, you need three data points above your goal line, two of which must be above a future spring goal. It’s a rigorous way to exit kids from receiving the extra support that Reading Corps provides.
We want to be confident that when we remove Reading Corps support, the student will stay on track and be successful.
What was the initial problem you were interested in?
For a few years, we knew there were kids who exited from Reading Corps but weren’t staying on track. You can look at the probability in the paper—we were seeing about 34 percent of students falling off track after an exit decision. To be clear, we were seeing that kids were much better off than they were previously, but many kids just weren’t maintaining a level of performance we’d hope for once Reading Corps support was discontinued.
So even though about 66 percent of kids were maintaining a great growth trajectory, we care a lot about the 34 percent that weren’t.
Weighing Difference Approaches
How did you figure out why this was happening?
We looked at a lot of factors to understand why we were seeing that drop off in performance after kids left Reading Corps.
We wondered, for example, if the point in time during the school year that kids exited the program impacted their long term growth. That didn’t explain it. We then looked at demographics of kids – race, gender and so on – and that wasn’t explaining much either.
Eventually, we started thinking less about predicting the drop off and more about whether changes to the decision guidelines would be useful. For example, we spent time thinking about, should we change our criteria for exit and make it more rigorous?
Would that be a good approach?
We didn’t see a lot of potential or return there. The yield turned out to not really be worth it, because any time you’re keeping kids in the program longer, you are keeping another kid out. A kid who then needs support isn’t getting it, when the student in the program is doing fine. So we ended up not really evaluating new exit criteria in practice.
So then we shifted our focus to think less about what happens before kids exit to what we could do after the exit.
Assessment as a Means to Solve the Problem
What did you wind up trying?
One thing we discussed was giving kids some extra practice after exit. We started thinking about the least invasive form of practice, which was conveniently already baked into the experiences of kids while they were in the program — each week during the intervention, tutors monitor progress of students using a short, minute-long assessment of reading fluency. So we thought why not just keep that going after the intervention? Progress monitoring is something that has been documented previously as something that can improve students’ academic achievement — but only by way of informing instruction or adapting to their needs. It’s never been discussed as something that is inherently beneficial.
If you think about progress monitoring as a task, though, kids are getting an opportunity to practice a skill that they’re being tested on at the end of the year. In this case, it is the exact skill – reading from a passage – they’re being tested on. They also are getting feedback on how they’re doing, and they’re getting a reminder of what the goal is for the end of the year.
These are really powerful things that we talk about in intervention – opportunity to respond, opportunity to engage in the task, and feedback. So that was our hypothesis – that continued progress monitoring after kids have exited Reading Corps could make a difference for long term outcomes.
You were able to test the hypothesis through a research pilot. What happened?
We saw a 10 to 14 percent increase in the probability of meeting the end-of-year benchmark among kids who got post-exit progress monitoring. This struck us as a really promising impact given the low level of time and resources involved.
This year, we are in the middle of a randomized control trial of post-exit progress monitoring – we have 100 sites, 50 of which will continue to monitor the progress of kids weekly after they exit from Reading Corps and 50 sites that are not doing that. It’s a really minor change to programming with a big potential payoff.
How were able to identify this issue and implement change so quickly?
We’re able to do it largely because we have infrastructure that supports innovation. It supports the analysis – we have pretty sophisticated data systems, where we know how kids are performing and growing, but we also know information about their experiences. We know how many minutes they’re getting, when they’re getting support, what exactly they’re doing, where they are geographically and what kind of tutors they’re working with. It’s a really rich dataset. Not a lot of folks in academia have access to that kind of data. It’s millions of cases and thousands of kids.
The other piece is we have this program that is serving all of these kids, and it’s still relatively nimble. In a year’s time, we can say, “We learned this, now let’s change this.” And there aren’t a lot of analogs to that. I don’t think in your typical education setting you can say, “We found this out, we’re going to make this change.” We can. In this case, we might just make it for a subgroup, but if we find out positive results this year, it’s something we can rapidly scale for everybody nationally, which is great.
What would it take to decide to rapidly scale that change nationally?
If we see ANY impact that is statistically significant, meaning that the kids who got post-exit progress monitoring in the randomized control trial this year were better off at the end of the year than similar kids who were not participating, that will be enough for us to make the change. If we see the same effect, that would be great. Even if it’s just 10 percent, that would be enough. Getting one additional student out of every 10 to meet their benchmark at the scale of thousands of kids, is something that’s notable.
email@example.comThis Small Program Change is Helping Kids Maintain Their Progress
Reading Corps and Math Corps combine the people power of AmeriCorps and the science of learning to provide a solution to help narrow achievement gaps and help students become successful learners by the end of third and eighth grade.