Innovations

Minneapolis School Breaks “High Priority” Barrier: Students Make Great Gains with Reading Corps Pilot Program

 

Current 2018-19 Scholar Coaches and staff

 

Exceptional things are happening at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School (NSJ) in North Minneapolis. Determined to help their learners succeed, NSJ has developed a multi-faceted approach to raising student achievement, with great success. Once deemed a “High Priority” school, a category which identifies the lowest-performing schools in the state, NSJ has now been removed from that list!

With the extraordinary commitment of their community partners and stakeholders (including Minnesota Reading Corps) NSJ has made incredible gains, including doubling 3rd grade reading proficiency in the span of three years. It was just a few short years ago that we began speaking with NSJ about developing a new kind of model to help better meet the needs of their students: the Total Learning Classroom (TLC) program. Now in its 4th year, the TLC program has grown to reach eight schools in Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Cloud.

The TLC program is unique in that our tutors—called Scholar Coaches—are embedded in K-3 classrooms and partner closely with the teacher to support classroom instruction and deliver 1:1 and small group reading interventions to students. “The 1:1 connection between the Scholar Coach and the classroom teacher enables daily conversations to happen about how students are doing,” NSJ principal Amy Luehmann said. “It makes a big difference.”

This partnership also gives the Scholar Coach the opportunity to integrate the teacher’s lessons into their tutoring sessions, which gives students an added learning boost. “The TLC model really was beneficial in that I was able to see what was happening in the classroom and connect that to the tutoring interventions,” Colleen Denice-Rossiter, a third-year Scholar Coach at NSJ, said. “I benefited so much from watching [the students’] progress and also just watching their whole attitude change.”

So far this year, over 400 students have been served by Scholar Coaches and 80% of students with six or more weeks of tutoring are achieving at or above the rate necessary to reach grade level targets by the spring. With the continued success of students at NSJ, we hope to partner with more Minnesota schools so that students across the state can achieve such incredible results!

The TLC program will be recruiting Scholar Coaches for the 2019-20 school year starting in January. To learn more about the program or how you can get involved, contact Andrew Mueller.

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Success Starts Early – Our New School Readiness Pilot

 

It’s never too late to learn something new—or too early. That’s certainly the case for preschool students participating in our new School Readiness pilot rolling out for the 2018-19 school year.

Studies show that a child’s math ability before starting school is a strong indicator of achievement as they grow. Early math both helps them to get ready for kindergarten and gets them on the right trajectory for school success later on. Despite the strong connection between preschool math skills and later academic success, only about six percent of time in the average early childhood classroom is devoted to math-related activities.

In Minnesota, the need for those early math skills is especially prevalent, as 32 percent of Minnesota’s third grade students failed the state math test in 2017—a rate which increases to 49 percent for low income families and to 63 percent by the time students reach 8th grade.

In order to help close this achievement gap and help start our littlest learners off on the track to success, we’ve introduced the School Readiness pilot. Made possible through generous support from the PNC Foundation, this early learning initiative combines PreK literacy interventions with introductory math skills into one curriculum.

“The interventions are based off our PreK model, so when tutors work with the whole class, small groups and one-on-one, we’ve added math components to all three,” explains Program Pilots Manager Alison Zellmer. “It’s a more holistic approach to making sure they have all the early literacy and math skills they need for success.”

Preschool Early Learning Specialists provide opportunities to learn math all day long through “math talk” (or vocabulary), reading math-focused books, fun and engaging targeted interventions and simple math activities families can use at home. Each activity exposes children to early math language and ideas, which ensures they’ll be ready for more difficult math concepts as they start school.

“There aren’t a lot of people in the country doing a PreK math program like we are. Tutors are coming in on something groundbreaking,” says Zellmer.

In addition to the education award and biweekly living allowance, Preschool Early Learning Specialists will be eligible to receive a bonus of up to $1,050 per year of service. They’ll also have the opportunity to use brand new curriculum and help shape how our PreK program looks in the future!

Interested in getting in on the ground level of this innovative program? We’re looking for 40 Preschool Early Learning Specialists to serve in schools across the Twin Cities Metro. Discover opportunities near you or contact Program Pilots Manager Alison Zellmer to learn more.

 
 
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Finding the Right Fit

Colleen Denice-Rossiter, Scholar Coach at Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary School in Minneapolis, MN

Throughout her life, Colleen Denice-Rossiter has always focused on serving others. Before becoming a full-time parent, she served with Peace Corps, taught kindergarten, became certified as a Certified Nursing Assistant and in American Sign Language, worked in the homecare field, and was a classroom volunteer. After her children were grown, she was eager to get back into the classroom and see if it was the right fit. Already familiar with AmeriCorps—and the importance of reading—Colleen thought she’d give Minnesota Reading Corps a try. As a K-3 Scholar Coach, she gets to experience the classroom environment while also serving her community.

The Scholar Coach position supports both the teacher and the students in the classroom. This way, students benefit from both individualized tutoring and the presence of another caring adult in the classroom. The teacher can count on the Scholar Coach to help kids that could benefit from some extra attention. The Scholar Coach integrates the teacher’s lessons into their tutoring sessions and collaborates with the teacher to decide how best to support students. Colleen also works one-on-one with students for 20 minute sessions. “I feel like the [Scholar Coach program] is beneficial because I am able to see what is happening in the classroom and connect that to the interventions. I had a very supportive relationship with the teacher,” Colleen explains.

Colleen’s favorite aspect of being a Scholar Coach is building relationships with the students. “I realize when I’m in the presence of kids that I know so much less than I thought I did. Everybody has something to teach me as well,” she says. “When we read together, they see their success and realize it’s going to help them with other topics. They feel proud as things get easier for them.”

Out of many great kids, one student’s story was especially memorable. M started out the school year with reading skills below grade average. With Colleen’s help, she was reading 90 words per minute by May and her mom jokingly asked who was teaching her to read so well because she was reading her mom’s text messages!

“I think that the Scholar Coach position is fabulous…Learn from the people, take in as much as you can, give as much as you can, and listen. I benefited so much from watching [students’] progress and also just watching their whole attitude change.”

Colleen’s classroom experience was everything she hoped for, and she is now not only returning for another year of service, but also using her Education Award to obtain a reading specialist license and pursue a career in education.

If you would like to join a school community as a Scholar Coach or would like more information please email Andrew Mueller or check out our available positions.

Forward this opportunity to a friend or apply now! Be sure to apply by July 25th to start in August.



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A Jump Start for Learning – Reading Corps in Family Child Care

 

Today, one in every three K-3 students in Minnesota is struggling to read. That’s 100,000 kids—a staggering number. Even more staggering is that 80% of brain growth occurs before age three, and during the first few years of a child’s life more than 1 million neural connections are formed every second. So when traditional school learning doesn’t begin until age five or six, how might we reach children during these early stages of development to jump-start learning and help close the opportunity gap? Our solution: Reading Corps in Family Child Care.

“We put a stake in the ground 10 years ago that we wanted Reading Corps to reach every child in Minnesota that needed it,” explains Audrey Suker, CEO at ServeMinnesota. “You can imagine that if every child care provider in communities had access to this, the whole community would start to feel different.”

How It Works

Tutors travel between three Family Child Care sites a week, visiting two each morning, to provide around 90 minutes of early literacy interventions. Working with children anywhere from infancy to age five, tutors conduct whole group, small group, and one-on-one sessions based on an adapted PreK model. Tutors also partner with the provider to lead instruction, and they work closely together to support strong student outcomes. Providers also participate in rigorous professional development including training and coaching to help them succeed.

Why Serve?

Tutors have the opportunity to serve outside the classroom in their communities and build valuable relationships with providers and families. They also are able to work with mixed ages and potentially whole sibling groups who wouldn’t be able to learn together in a traditional school environment. Given Family Child Care tutors travel to multiple locations and take on additional leadership and organizational tasks, tutors serve part time but receive an increased living allowance.

“If you are interested in increasing your leadership and teaching skills, as well as having a strong impact on student outcomes, this innovative pilot is a great choice for your service year,” says Becky Scott-Rudnick, Director of Family Child Care.

What’s Next?

In order to meet the needs of children across the state, Reading Corps in Family Child Care is now expanding to Bloomington for the first time for the 2018-19 school year. A total of three members are needed in Bloomington, as well as 13 in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and six in St. Cloud.

If you’re interested in taking your service outside the school or would like more information, please contact program manager Nou Thao.

Want to learn more? Check out this Pioneer Press feature to read more about one tutor’s experience serving with Reading Corps in Family Child Care and how she makes a difference for children in her community.

 
 
 
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