North Minneapolis schools struggle to find tutors

(Photo by Gary Young) Sabrina Edwards, Literacy Tutor at the Minneapolis YWCA.

Preschools and elementary schools across the Twin Cities, most of them located in north Minneapolis, have an immediate need for more than 150 full- and part-time literacy tutors and math tutors for the 2014-15 school year.

The Minnesota Reading and Math Corps, part of the AmeriCorps umbrella, is a network of more than 1,200 members able to help 34,000-plus students statewide. Tutors commit to a year of service, during which they undergo training and earn a living allowance of up to $526 biweekly and an education award of up to $5,645 to help pay for furthering their own education. Full-time tutors are also eligible to receive health insurance.

"Doing this is a way that people can be involved in the community and make a real difference," said Anna Peters, the recruitment and outreach manager for the Minnesota Reading and Math Corps. "We're looking for people who are dedicated to serving their community, and to working with kids who need that extra support."

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Literacy and math tutors come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from high school graduates to retirees, mid-career individuals considering a professional change, and parents looking for a way to support their child's school. "We get people from all walks of life and different career aspirations wanting to be tutors," said Peters. "It is a great way for aspiring teachers to get their foot in the door but a majority of them bring a variety of stories."

Peters said math and literacy tutors fill a critical role for students struggling with math and reading. The Minnesota Reading and Math Corps is a research-based, statewide initiative that works to help every Minnesota student become a successful reader by the end of third grade, and proficient in math by the end of eighth grade. According to their studies, one out of three third-graders in the state are not reading at the expected grade level. In addition, 40 percent of Minnesota fourth through eighth-graders are not proficient in math.

"You have to be able to read in order to learn," said Peters. "And we've found that having a student's algebra skills in place by eighth grade is a strong indication of college success."

Sabrina Edwards, who is starting her third year as a literacy tutor at the YWCA of Minneapolis, said she first got involved in her daughter's education as a volunteer in the infant room at the Parents In Community Action's McKnight location. As her daughter got older, Edwards wanted to stay involved in the school system. A friend, who was a literacy tutor for Minnesota Reading Corp at the time, told Edwards about the benefits of the program and became eager to sign up.

Along with the rigorous training in teaching strategies and skill building, tutors with the Minnesota Reading and Math Corps are assigned an internal coach who helps manage them to manage student caseloads, discuss goals, or address any issues. However, those involved with the program said relationships that tutors build with the students are often the most unexpected reward.

"I thought it would be tough to work with these kids, but it's so easy," said Edwards enthusiastically. "It's so rewarding. The kids love it and they love being in the program because it builds their confidence and improves their test scores. Plus, (the Reading Corp) gives us the tools that we need, that also makes it easier."

Edwards is taking advantage of the education grant provided through to the Reading Corp to begin taking sonography classes at Augsburg College this fall. "This program gave me the opportunity to stay involved in my daughter's education, and to further my education as well. I don't know where I'd be if it hadn't been for the Reading Corp," said Edwards.

Additional information on the Minnesota Reading and Math Corps is available at www.ServeMNAction.org.

  • Well, for someone like me, a retired housing finance coordinator with a degree in elementary education, the tutoring possibility is a wonderful opportunity to be engaged during my early retirement years, receive a monthly amount that really helps with retirement income, spend time with energetic children who keep me focused and happy, and have money to take classes to help become an even better tutor. I am not happy to hear that the need is so great but there are people out there, like me, who would really benefit from this opportunity. Let us hope many people step forward. Right now I am all signed up and ready to serve in St. Paul. - by Donna Wiemann on Sat, 08/23/2014 - 9:41pm
  • "Up to $526 biweekly and an education award of up to $5,645 to help pay for furthering their own education?" Oh, and HEALTH INSURANCE is part of those benefits, too? Well, seems like Obama has been taking care of THAT. So, let's see, $526 biweekly works out to how much a week? And then take the $5,645 and divide that up over 52 weeks in a year...that's HOW MUCH per week? Or do they have to work longer than a year to get that $5,645? Seems to me a person could do better working at McDonalds than working for AmeriCorps. Do the math. Why would anybody in their right mind take a deal like that from AmeriCorps instead of working another job, almost ANY OTHER JOB? Is it any wonder it's so hard to find tutors? AmeriCorps has been getting the short end of the Congressional budget for a long time but apparently they're too nice to complain about it. I think this article needed to forcefully point it out. - by John Hoff on Thu, 08/21/2014 - 8:26pm
  • Really I second that opinion, who could afford to be a tutor? You are asking them to live in poverty. Totally unreasonable. - by Juliana James on Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:33pm

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