When Lenore Meyer found out that one of her students had listed “Mrs. Meyer” as her favorite thing about school, she knew she was doing something right. Working as an AmeriCorps academic tutor during the 2016-2017 school year, Lenore would work with students on their reading skills, but more importantly, she was another caring adult in their lives who was excited about their accomplishments.
Three years ago, it was hard to imagine what type of impact AmeriCorps Partners in Learning could make when it partnered with the Dubuque Community School District (DCSD) to improve reading proficiency. Fast forward to today: Not only are AmeriCorps members helping to improve reading proficiency, but they are also positively affecting attendance rates.
“The support from the school district and each building is incredible. We’re really excited to have data to back up all the great collaboration that is happening,” said Mary Bridget Corken-Deutsch, AmeriCorps program director. “Really our success is because of the work that happens between our AmeriCorps members and each school’s teachers, staff, instructional coaches and principals. They are the real champions of this program.”
Since the 2014-2015 school year, AmeriCorps members have been trained by DCSD staff and collaborated closely with elementary school classroom teachers and instructional coaches to provide one-on-one or small-group tutoring sessions to struggling readers in kindergarten through third grade. Over the past three years, data shows that the percentage of students that have improved their reading proficiency after working with the AmeriCorps members has consistently increased.
“I would take students out into the hallway for one-on-one time to work on their literacy skills. We would do site words, spelling words or read books. That individual attention made a difference and gave the students a sense of accomplishment,” said Meyer. “So many of these kids we were working with had a lot of other outside factors affecting their ability to learn in school. Helping them deal with these outside forces and concentrate on their learning was a big challenge but it was so rewarding.”
In addition to impacting reading scores, these AmeriCorps members also play a significant mentoring role for the students. During the 2016-2017 school year, 88 percent of students who worked with AmeriCorps members had an attendance rate of 90 percent or higher. In the previous two years, more than 90 percent of the students who worked with the AmeriCorps members had an attendance rate of 90 percent or higher (2014-2015: 96%, 2015-2016: 94%).
Throughout the three years of the program, these AmeriCorps members have consistently worked with more than 1,500 students. Having another consistent, caring adult in these student’s lives has made an important impact in their ability to succeed in school. Research tells us that kindergarteners who miss 10% of school days have lower academic performance when they reach first grade. Providing students with another mentor who they know cares whether they show up to school or not can make all the difference in the world.