By Jacob Mathias
Volunteer reading tutors have made for many successful students at area elementary schools.
Learning for Life, an initiative of the United Way of Portage County, pairs volunteer reading tutors with area second and third grade students who are struggling to reach their recommended proficient reading level and gives them one-on-one tutoring.
The program, modeled from similar one in Dane County, began in 2009 in the Rosholt School District and has since expanded into the entirety of Portage County.
“No teacher can do one-on-one for half an hour with each of their students who would need that additional help,” said Laura Pfeil, United Way of Portage County’s Community Initiative Associate. “We want to be that help for them.”
For the 2015-16 school year, about 100 tutors have volunteered and nearly 200 students are now benefiting from the program. Learning for Life is now placed in every public school district in Portage County as well as St. Stephens and St. Brons Catholic Schools.
The program continues to expand and for the first time this year, second grade students are now taking advantage of the program in six elementary schools including Amherst, Bannach, Jefferson, Madison, McKinley and McDill Elementary Schools.
|Learn for Life By Year|
This is the first year the program has expanded into the Amherst School District.
Pfeil said the program is based on current assessments given the school districts and no additional testing is given to those in the program. The age group was chosen because studies show that the age around second in third grade is most critical in developing reading skills for later in life.
Jeanne Koepke, principal of McDill Elementary School, said the tutoring program has been very successful with her students and the half hour or so per week that the individual students receive is all it takes to make them proficient readers.
“They love taking time to be there. They love someone who gives them 100 percent of their attention,” said Koepke. “That is so valuable that they continue learning the reading process.”
Students are taught through the popular CAFE model in the reading skills of comprehension, accuracy, fluency and expanding vocabulary. The students read to the tutors who are trained in how to engage the students in the reading process and teach them how to better their reading skills in each area.
“Most of them think a good reader is someone who can read big words or can read a big, thick book, but a lot of them don’t realize it’s more than that,” said Pfeil. “It’s about remember what happened in the book and understanding it.”
The vast majority of students in the program show improvement. Data from the 2014-15 school year shows 81% of the students tutored met their reading goals and of those, 85 ended the school reading at their grade level proficiency or above.
|Student Data 2014-15|
|Number of students tutored||Number of these students- tutored twice per week|
|Number of students who met goal||Number of students who ended at grade level proficiency or above|
“Last year it made huge gains with the students,” she said. “It’s invaluable because it gives our students a chance to read and practice reading out loud with someone who is trained to look for ways to help them improve their reading.”
For more information on Learn for Life or to volunteer, visit www.unitedwaypoco.org or call 715-341-6740.