School District on the march with reading, math corps

Princeton Public Schools continue in their use of a remedial reading program called Reading Corps and now this school year have added Math Corps.

Both programs are run through a program under AmericCorps, which pays a stipend to persons to do community service work. Princeton new P

Both Reading Corps and Math Corps are designed to assist younger students who are struggling in those courses to catch up to the course standards for their grade level. Both employ frequent assessments to gauge the students’ progress and skill level.

The state of Minnesota has created these Reading Corps and Math Corps programs to be specific to the state, said Erin Heine Engness, who supervises both of these corps in the Princeton School District. Because Reading Corps and Math Corps are funded by AmeriCorps, they are no cost to the district, with the exception of computer equipment and the teaching space, Engness noted.

Reading Corps is used for students who need extra help in reading from preschool through third grade. The Princeton district has seven Reading Corps positions this school year and two had not been filled as of Aug. 22,

Math Corps is used in grades four through eight, and no one had yet been hired for the three Math Corps openings in the district as of Aug. 22.

Engness said she believed the lack of applicants for Math Corps reflects comments she said she has heard.

“A lot of people are scared off by the fact that it is math … and say, ‘I can’t teach math,’” Engness said.

Engness said being a Math Corps teacher is not something to be feared.

“You’re trained and supported,” Engness said. “You’re never alone. I feel a lot of people are qualified who just aren’t willing to take the step and see (if they could do this work). If you’re working with a fourth-grade student who is below grade level, they are doing third-grade level. Most people have basic math skills.”

The Reading Corps and Math Corps programs are very helpful, according to Engness. She noted that Reading Corps has usually served 80-100 students in a school year at Princeton.

“The kids (being helped) are monitored weekly, so we know if the intervention is correct, it is helping,” Engness said. “Students can exit (Reading Corps). Students can come in. We’re constantly monitoring children to make sure they are successful.”

Engness added that the district already has intervention in these subjects through the Title I and special education programs. But they are for the students who are “significantly lower” than the course standards, so Reading Corps and Math Corps helps the students who fall in between, Engness said.

“These are the kids just below grade level,” she said.

The way students are selected to get help in math is by examining the students’ Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, or MCA, scores, Engness said. For selecting for reading help, fall assessments are given to all students in grades K-3.

Both the Reading and Math Corps programs are very useful because the classroom teachers don’t have the time for one-on-one instruction, Engness said.

She added that the Reading Corps organization was part of a federal study last year and it has shown “significant gains.” The Princeton district was part of a study of state schools using Reading Corps, she said.