Math Corps

Stories of Service During COVID-19

Stories of Service During COVID-19

When Minnesota schools closed in response to the COVID-19 crisis, our members stepped up. Over the last few weeks, reading and math tutors have pivoted, shifting their service from tutoring in schools to supporting the community and students in new ways. We’ve collected some inspiring stories of service – take a look!

Suzanne PagelStories of Service During COVID-19
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How to Recruit and Retain Your Tutors: Interview with Principal Jim Stang

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.

 

shayla@serveminnesota.orgHow to Recruit and Retain Your Tutors: Interview with Principal Jim Stang
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From Banking to Early Childhood Education. Reading Corps and Math Corps Helped this Mom Achieve her Dream of Becoming a Teacher.

From Banking to Early Childhood Education. Reading Corps and Math Corps Helped this Mom Achieve her Dream of Becoming a Teacher.

Stephanie Scierka always dreamed of being a teacher, but the timing never seemed right. About 4 years ago, Reading Corps and Math Corps helped get her there.

At the time, Stephanie and her husband were living in a small town in Pennsylvania where she worked as a loan officer. The thought of teaching was always in the back of her mind. “I wasn’t loving my job,” Stephanie recalls. “I knew I was meant to teach because even at the bank, I found that I was the happiest training and teaching new employees.”

Suzanne PagelFrom Banking to Early Childhood Education. Reading Corps and Math Corps Helped this Mom Achieve her Dream of Becoming a Teacher.
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Evidence-Based Practices Boost Students’ Math Skills in Math Corps

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.

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

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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Legislative Testimony from Ariana Wright, Principal at Kasson-Mantorville

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

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

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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A Gap Year of Service

A Gap Year of Service

Alyssa Tulloch wasn’t quite ready to head to college after graduating from Creative Arts Secondary School last fall. Instead, she decided to take a gap year. Lucky for us, she has chosen to spend that time with Minnesota Math Corps.

“My teacher told me about this opportunity,” Alyssa says. “He knew I love math and love working with kids.”

For Alyssa, it seems like the perfect fit. She can gain experience and save money for college while figuring out what she wants to do next. But for now, Alyssa is happily working with students at the very school she graduated from.

“I just love this school,” Alyssa shares. “It is truly an amazing community that gives students so many opportunities to be themselves. It’s great to be able to be here now, helping others.”

One of her favorite parts of service? The appreciation she receives.

“I think a lot of teachers appreciate me and what I do,” Alyssa explains. “When they don’t have enough time or resources, I can be the person who individually gives students extra support.”

Alyssa strives to make all of her students feel comfortable and confident while learning. She works hard to be seen as an authority figure, but also someone who students can relate to and trust. She says the trust and relationships she builds help her be a better tutor.  “Not every student learns the same way,” she says. “I love being able to cater to their needs and make learning more accessible.”

At the end of the day, the most important thing to Alyssa is helping students succeed. “You use basic math everywhere,” she states. “It’s important that these students are confident in their math skills so they can excel in school and succeed in life.”

If you want to learn more about Alyssa’s story, check out her recent feature on KARE 11’s Breaking the News.

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Suzanne PagelA Gap Year of Service
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How Reading Corps and Math Corps Can Offset Special Education Costs

 

Julia Espe

Dr. Julia Espe

Editor’s Note: This essay was written by Julia Espe, Ed.D., who served as Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools from 2013 to her retirement in 2016. She currently works as a consultant for ServeMinnesota, the organization that oversees AmeriCorps programs for the state of Minnesota.  

Reading Corps and Math Corps Are Vital Parts of Multi Tiered Systems

It is important for communities around the state to know that teaching and learning are seriously ​rocket science. That is, it is a complex system of creating the right environment of student engagement and challenging targets, knowing exactly what students need to learn to meet or exceed the targets, providing that teaching and learning experience for the student, assessing whether the student is making progress and starting the cycle again.

In the case of students who have difficulty learning, a whole new layer of ​rocket science​​ is needed. Trained professionals need to identify the gaps or needs, provide a targeted intervention to relearn those, decide the approach that will help the learning to “stick,” make a determination how long and intensive the intervention needs to be given to the student and ascertain when the student is indeed meeting the target. Each child is different and has different needs, and teaching and learning has to adjust to provide those needs.

The Princeton School District has a system of Multi Tiered Systems of Supports, and Reading and Math Corps are vital parts of the interventions mentioned above. Title Programs provide additional supports for students in need of interventions. A program called ADSIS (Alternative Delivery of Specialized Instructional Services​) delivers even more interventions for additional students. Students with the greatest needs receive special education services, which are the most expensive of all interventions.

Finally, teachers differentiate instruction for students as they provide instruction in the core curriculum.  It is difficult for lay people to realize the science of teaching — in other words, ​rocket science — that helps students to learn. To the public, all of this may be invisible in a classroom. In order to put this system together, we need support from the state and federal funding that we currently receive.

Decrease in Specific Learning Disabilities

Princeton is a small school district with about 3,200 students PreK through grade 12. Like many districts in Minnesota, it does not have a data and research department. We took a simple approach to measuring cost savings of Reading and Math Corps to the district by looking at a three-year period (2005-2006 through 2007-2008) prior to implementing Reading and Math Corps.

During that time Princeton Public Schools averaged about ​14 ​​students with a Specific Learning Disability. Over the past nine years since we implemented Reading and Math Corps, the average number of students identified with a Specific Learning Disability has decreased to ​seven ​​students — a decrease of 50 percent.

Reading Corps and Math Corps Save You Time

Special education in Minnesota follows a predictable process. Each school district is responsible for identifying children who are suspected of having a disability, beginning at birth, who attend public or nonpublic school and school age children who are not attending school. This system is commonly referred to as “child find.” The child find system should include the process for receiving referrals from parents, physicians, private and public programs, and health and human services agencies.

Before a school district refers a student for a special education evaluation, the district must conduct at least two research-based pre-referral interventions. A pre-referral intervention is a scientific research-based instructional strategy, alternative or intervention designed to address a student’s academic or behavioral needs in the general education classroom. The classroom teacher is responsible for implementing the first tier of interventions.

Tiered interventions outside of the general education classroom offer more intensive instruction to students who have not demonstrated marked improvement with general classroom supports. Reading Corps and Math Corps are just two of the many supports available to students in the Princeton district.

When a student is evaluated for special education services in the area of specific learning disabilities, multiple staff are required to participate in the evaluation process.  For an initial evaluation, a special education teacher will spend roughly 15 hours gathering and reviewing data, evaluating the student, meeting with school staff and parents to review the results and generating a summary report of the information.

In addition, a school psychologist will contribute an additional five hours to the evaluation process. A general education teacher and school administrator will also contribute an additional hour as part of the evaluation. For every initial evaluation, licensed school staff are contributing a total of up to 20 hours to each individual evaluation. If the student qualifies for special education services, up to five more hours will be contributed before services can begin.

The most significant benefit of tiered interventions to the student is time. Research-based interventions such as those offered through Reading Corps and Math Corps do not require the time-intensive evaluations mandated by federal and state special education regulations and statutes. A data-driven analysis of formative assessment data allows general education teachers and interventionists to implement intensive instruction almost immediately.

When Reading Corps and Math Corps Increased, Fewer Special Ed Services Were Needed

Reading Corps and Math Corps services have been available to Princeton students for five years.  Over the same period of time, the number of students requiring special education services has been declining — 23 fewer students over the same time period. This is a great cost savings. Here is a breakdown of the numbers:

  • Each student costs roughly $13,000 per year for specialized instruction.
  • This totals approximately $300,000 per year.
  • This equals approximately $1,500,000 in savings over five years.

In short, Reading Corps and Math Corps have not only helped our students to learn how to read and perform better in math, these programs have also saved our district in costs. Occasionally we hear that these programs may be reduced in support.  They are supported through AmeriCorps funding. Our state legislators recently increased funding for the programs, and we thank them. Congress has supported our programming ever since its inception.  As the federal government works on budget, we will continue to advocate for financing.

Not only do these programs work for our students. They also are cost-effective. And it’s very difficult to not to advocate for that.

shayla@serveminnesota.orgHow Reading Corps and Math Corps Can Offset Special Education Costs
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