GRAND RAPIDS – Teachers in Grand Rapids, as well as a number of other communities across the country, gave high marks to reading tutors who provide additional student support in the classroom, according to a survey by AARP Experience Corps.
In Grand Rapids, 94 percent of teachers surveyed said that their students’ reading and literacy performance improved under the guidance of AARP Experience Corps tutors during the 2012-2013 school year.
Though Experience Corps tutors focus on improving reading literacy, teachers identify added benefits of having older adult volunteers in the classroom.
“Not only do teachers find student reading scores improved, they also say that children’s confidence in classroom participation, behavior and attendance improve as well,” said Peggy Lawrence Burns, Site Director for the Experience Corps in Grand Rapids. “With so many children per classroom, teachers often don’t have enough time for one-on-one or small group interaction. The time and attention children get through our tutors can make all the difference.”
The survey shows 73 percent of teachers said tutors had a positive impact on regular attendance; 76 percent said the program reduced disruptive behavior; and 85 percent said tutor impact improved participation or concentration in the classroom.
AARP Experience Corps worked with 60 classrooms in 10 schools in Grand Rapids and 341 students received 21,187 hours of tutoring from 31 volunteers. The program in Grand Rapids is hosted by the Gerontology Network.
AARP Experience Corps works with school districts and principals to establish programs that fit seamlessly with existing curriculum and staff. Tutors commit to the school year, providing a consistent classroom presence for students and teachers. Experience Corps focuses on children in grades kindergarten through third, as this is where children learn to read. In fourth grade, children begin reading to learn. Many who cannot read at grade level fall quickly behind.
An Annie E. Casey Foundation Report Early Warning: Why Reading by the end of Third Grade Matters draws attention to the reality that children who are not reading proficiently by the end of the 3rd grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma, and are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as truancy and aggression. The report cites National Assessment of Education Progress statistics that found some 68 percent of American children could not read at grade level by the end of third grade.
Experience Corps’ annual survey also showed a high level of satisfaction among tutors, not only in the work they do for students and teachers but also in the mental and physical improvements they see in themselves and in the social aspects the volunteer opportunity provides.