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Column: Minnesota Reading Corps strives to boost schools

WORTHINGTON -- Southwest Minnesota schools have long been known for the emphasis they place on education and the effort they spend to provide opportunities for students, families and communities. The addition of the Minnesota Reading and Math Corps programs to our southwest Minnesota-area schools is another example of this drive and effort in the name of education.

Minnesota Reading Corps (MRC) is the nation's largest state AmeriCorps program. It is a statewide initiative to help every Minnesota child be a successful reader by the end of third grade. Minnesota Math Corps (MMC) is a research-based AmeriCorps program that provides targeted tutoring to fourth- through eighth-grade students who are struggling with math. These initiatives are offered as a grant-program for which schools can apply.

Along with the current FLY initiative to raise academic performance, the addition of MRC or MMC to our schools is meant to ensure that every student in a grade receives the necessary attention to their individual academic performance. Currently, less than 60 percent of Minnesota's eighth-graders are meeting the proficiency mark on statewide assessments that predict later success. Also, nearly one in five third-graders in Minnesota is failing to reach basic levels of literacy. The MRC and MMC programs provide practiced, individualized, data-proven interventions to help each specific child meet proficiency levels.

Each school had to apply for and receive a grant to host the MRC or MMC program. Some schools host only MRC or MMC, while others have implemented both programs for their students. The individual interventions are done daily by MRC or MMC members known as literacy or math tutors. Our southwest Minnesota schools host multiple tutors at this time: Adrian, Natalie Willers; Edgerton, Tracy Keleher; Fulda, Molly Baschke; Luverne, Tina Petronek; Marshall, April Gunderson, Emily Sovell, Emma Wilson and Kristen Buldhaupt; Pipestone, Naomi DeSchepper; Slayton, Kelly Muldoon; Tracy, Tija Van Gelderen; and Windom, Julie Donchez. Each tutor serves either part- or full-time, and is trained and supported to track and guide students' growth towards proficiency and success.

Our schools have taken another great bound in education by implementing the MRC and MMC programs in southwest Minnesota schools. If you believe in the same goals, then help to support our schools, these programs and the students they serve. Feel free to contact any tutors or schools to express your interest and support. Some schools are also looking for future tutors. The joy of helping students succeed and the pride of achieving students should not go unnoticed.

Natalie Willers is a literacy tutor for Minnesota Reading Corps,