Minnesota Reading Corps & Minnesota Math Corps Blog

Evidence-Based Practices Boost Students’ Math Skills in Math Corps

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.

In the 2017-2018 school year, 66 percent of Math Corps students exceeded growth expectations on the state exam, and 92 percent of school partners – including principals – agree that participation in Math Corps had a positive impact on their students. Much of the success of the program depends on the rigorous training, ongoing coaching and support for the tutors who serve the students.

David Parker, Ph.D., the Vice President of Research and Development at ServeMinnesota, said that despite so many successes, it is crucial that we continue to look for ways to strengthen Math Corps and continue to better serve students.

David Parker
David Parker, Ph.D.

“We see an immediately actionable role for AmeriCorps to close the research-to-practice gap. That means we strive to take emerging best-practices and scale them to increase impact.” Parker said. “With that in mind, we continually examine our data to identify ways to help students make more progress in math.”

His team recently completed analysis of the tutor coaching and evaluation process and gained some valuable insight about how to best engage students.

Math Corps tutors are observed by coaches who assess and work with them. Coaches use a clear, objective list of observable practices to help them carry out the instruction. He said tutors achieve 90 percent and higher on those evaluations, which means they have high adherence to the

What’s the Formula for Impactful Tutoring? 

Parker explained that tutors have always been observed by internal coaches and master coaches to give feedback on a regular basis. Coaches use an observation form lists the key steps for effectively tutoring students. Parker said this generally works well. In fact, he said, on a list of 10 items (for example, was the fraction modeled using actual objects?), our Math Corps tutors get 90 percent correct on average.

However, Parker and the research team wondered, if the tutors were following all of the instructions on how to teach math concepts, don’t we think students could progress faster?

In other words, what else could be done to help students learn math concepts?  The team decided to test some hypotheses to learn more.

Beyond “The List”

ServeMinnesota researchers realized a key piece might be missing from the observations: How well the tutors responded to students and built rapport. Or in other words, if the list of steps are like recipe ingredients, maybe there’s also something similar to the instructions of a recipe.  Accordingly, the researchers decided to look at how tutors were engaging with the students.

“If the student doesn’t understand (the lesson), how does the tutor respond?” he said. With the understanding that relationships matter, they piloted a study in which they collected additional data during observations – relationship scores. These data showed what the researchers suspected: that the way a tutor interacts with a student is strongly related to student performance!

Coaching is Key

So how do tutors establish a good relationship with their students? Parker said the coaching process is crucial, just like with following the important instructional steps. Parker noted that relationship building is now part of the observation and feedback process, helping tutors develop bonds with students that facilitate stronger relationships … and learning.

For example, in the very first observation, if the coach sees the tutor is so focused on the list of steps that the quality of relationship engagement could be improved, the coaching process will help the tutor find a good balance between doing the intervention “right” and maintaining a student-centered approach.

“It’s surprisingly simple, but that’s the point!” Parker said. “It can start with ‘Hey, how was your summer? How are you doing?’” That really helps students realize their tutor cares, and that helps them engage in learning math. 

shayla@serveminnesota.orgEvidence-Based Practices Boost Students’ Math Skills in Math Corps
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5 Ways to Be a High-Performing Principal in Reading Corps and 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.

shayla@serveminnesota.org5 Ways to Be a High-Performing Principal in Reading Corps and Math Corps
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From AmeriCorps to State Office, Rep. Ami Wazlawik’s Career Exemplifies Service to Community

This story was published originally by ServeMinnesota.

Minnesota State Legislator Ami Wazlawik is probably similar to a lot of elected officials who say they have public service in their blood.

However, with three stints in AmeriCorps – serving in Minnesota Reading Corps, the Summer Reads program and AmeriCorps VISTA – before running for state office, Wazlawik has the record to prove it. She said her draw to service actually goes back to planting trees near the Mississippi River bank as a child with her family – one of many family volunteer efforts that made an impression on the White Bear Lake native.

Suzanne PagelFrom AmeriCorps to State Office, Rep. Ami Wazlawik’s Career Exemplifies Service to Community
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A Conversation with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar

On December 3, Reading Corps was invited to participate in a panel hosted by Results for America at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law in Concord, New Hampshire. The event, “A Conversation with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar on National Service and Strengthening Our Democracy” focused on how evidence-based approaches, public policy and national service intersect to amplify progress and social change.

Suzanne PagelA Conversation with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar
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Legislative Testimony from Ariana Wright, Principal at Kasson-Mantorville

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.

shayla@serveminnesota.orgLegislative Testimony from Ariana Wright, Principal at Kasson-Mantorville
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PreK Math Pilot Shows Significant Results

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.

shayla@serveminnesota.orgPreK Math Pilot Shows Significant Results
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5 Take-Aways from the 2018-19 Program Evaluation

By Sadie O’Connor, Managing Director

  1. 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.
  2. Students making academic progress. Students participating in Reading Corps and Math Corps made incredible progress and growth last school year.
shayla@serveminnesota.org5 Take-Aways from the 2018-19 Program Evaluation
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Mother Inspired by Son’s Success in Reading Corps

Brianna Mielke has always been drawn to mission-driven work. Whether working to support domestic violence and sexual assault survivors or those experiencing a mental health crisis, she loved making a difference. After ten years in social services, it was her son who inspired her to become a tutor.

Suzanne PagelMother Inspired by Son’s Success in Reading Corps
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A New Direction through Service

Lindsay Bass-Sessions had been working in retail for several years when she decided she was ready for a change of pace. Turns out service was exactly what she was looking for.

Suzanne PagelA New Direction through Service
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A New Data Management System for Math Corps Offers Increased Data Gathering Power

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.

shayla@serveminnesota.orgA New Data Management System for Math Corps Offers Increased Data Gathering Power
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