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Digital Tools Help AmeriCorps Program Coach Young Readers

Student coaches with AmeriCorps’ City Year program will have access to digital tools and an online dashboard from the education software company Curriculum Associates to aid struggling students in grades three to five.

A young student sitting at a table reading a book holding their finger against the page to mark their progress.
Three hundred students in large urban school districts across various states this academic year will receive intensive one-on-one or small-group tutoring under a partnership with the software company Curriculum Associates and the education nonprofit City Year.

The program for students in grades three to five was announced Sept. 12. Under this initiative, City Year student-success coaches will work with struggling students in Washington, D.C.; Seattle; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; and San Jose using Curriculum Associates’ Magnetic Reading program, according to a news release.

According to the Curriculum Associates website, Magnetic Reading is a blended program consisting of printed and digital materials. The books contain colorful text, pictures and graphics explaining and illustrating a topic while also engaging the learner to demonstrate what they are learning through activities like word sorts. Teachers and tutors can monitor student progress and modify their learning plans with a digital dashboard.

Curriculum Associates employees will train student coaches on how to use the tools. The high-dosage tutoring sessions, aimed at getting students up to grade-level proficiency quickly, supplement what students learn during regular classroom instruction.

“This literacy initiative is all about engaging reticent readers through extra time on compelling texts and topics for increased confidence and independence,” Elizabeth Bassford, vice president of content and implementation at Curriculum Associates, said in a public statement. “We look forward to being a dedicated partner to City Year’s talented group of student coaches throughout the year as they use our research-based program to help students get to grade-level reading proficiency and spark the joy of shared discovery in students.”

City Year, in a partnership with AmeriCorps, works to expand educational equity and develop diverse leaders in education and other services. According to the City Year website, the program recruits young adults to spend a year helping children in inner-city schools. Making a case for the City Year program, the website points to the national high school graduation rate of 84.6 percent and the fact that more than 2,300 high schools in the United States have graduation rates below 67 percent. The organization also notes that grades and test scores increase by an average of 11 percent when students have social and emotional support, and that the graduation rate is three times higher for students who reach 10th grade on time and remain on track in their attendance, behavior and academic performance.

AmeriCorps has hundreds of student coaches working in under-resourced schools across the country, collaborating with teachers to provide both academic and social-emotional support, according to the news release.

“We know all students can learn, achieve and succeed,” Stephanie Wu, City Year’s chief transformation officer, said in a public statement. “The training and tools City Year AmeriCorps members will receive through this partnership will enable them to work alongside teachers and specialists to strengthen student literacy skills and build confidence in reading. Students are then better prepared to engage more deeply with their own learning and reach their full potential.”