Reading, math tutors make a difference

By Elizabeth Sias

A little help can go a long way.

That’s what Dawn Fleischhacker learned last year during her time as a Minnesota Reading Corps tutor, helping students become fluent readers.

A Minnesota Math Corps tutor works helps a student become a proficient in math.

“The kids are so wonderful to work with,” Fleischhacker said. “They would all of a sudden get it — every first grader I worked with, it was like a light switch went off, and it was so great to see the look on their face and to have that feeling of accomplishment, not only for myself, but for them as well.”

Responding to an increasing need to help Minnesota children with reading and math, two AmeriCorps programs are recruiting more than 900 tutors across the state — their largest effort ever.

One out of every four Minnesota third graders does not read at grade level, and more than 40 percent of the state’s eighth graders do not meet math proficiency standards.

In response, Minnesota Reading Corps, one of the largest AmeriCorps programs in the country, is about to get even larger as it works to recruit more than 800 tutors for the 2011-2012 school year, up from 670 this year. Minnesota Math Corps, now in its third year, is set to double in size, from 50 to 100.

A Minnesota Reading Corps tutor with a student.

Positions in the Twin Cities are still available, and former tutor Fleischhacker said the position is perfect way to get a foot in the door for recent college graduates or anyone interested in teaching.

“It’s so great watching these kids and watching them progress,” she said. “Most of the kids were just awesome to work with, so if you love kids and working with them, I think it’s the greatest opportunity.”


Techniques employed

After a three-day training session through AmeriCorps, Fleischhacker tutored mostly first-graders at School For All Seasons in Cambridge during the 2010-2011 school year, working with the same kids for 20-minute sessions.

One method she used frequently was called duet reading, in which the student reads a paragraph or two of a story and Fleischhacker would correct them on mispronounced words, then student and tutor work together, reading every other word of the story, before the student reads it on their own.

A statewide initiative to help children become successful readers by the end of third grade, Minnesota Reading Corps, places tutors in preschool and elementary schools to implement early-literacy instruction efforts to help struggling readers.

Full-time and part-time positions are available in locations around the state, including elementary schools, Head Start programs, community preschools, and ECFE classrooms. Since 2003, the program has worked with more than 25,000 children.

Minnesota Math Corps recruits and trains AmeriCorps tutors to provide extra support to students in fourth through eighth grade who are struggling with math. The program has expanded each year since 2008 and expects to place 100 tutors in various schools for the 2011-2012 school year. Applications for both programs are now being accepted for positions throughout the state, and are available at and

Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps tutors commit to 11 months of service that begins in August. In addition to receiving valuable hands-on experience, tutors earn an education award of up to $5,550 to pay for college or to pay back federal student loans, a modest living allowance and other benefits, including the option to transfer the award to a child or grandchild if the tutor is 55 or older.