By Sarah Dixon, December guest blogger
Two weeks ago I shared a model called Response to Intervention (RTI) as a way to eliminate what educators sometimes call a "wait to fail" culture. This culture, where students take one high-stakes test each year to determine their progress, often leaves students too far behind to catch up. RTI uses constant monitoring, instead of that one annual test, and provides struggling students with help (interventions) that have been demonstrated in studies to work. The challenge for schools is to provide extra staff to implement RTI effectively.
"It takes a village to raise a child" is a quote widely attributed to an African proverb. While a child's immediate family members are their first and most important teachers, too many children struggle in school because their family support system is unable to help. This is where community comes in. Go to any school in America and you will find community volunteers. They read to children, provide tutoring, chaperone field trips and much, much more.
Wouldn't it be great to combine the power of RTI with the passion of community volunteers? The Minnesota Alliance With Youth is making this a reality.
The Alliance provides AmeriCorps Promise Fellows to schools. They work with school staff to use data to target the right support to the right youth at the right time. Promise Fellows serve as a bridge between the school district and community organizations to work with students in grades 6-10 who are at risk of dropping out. Teachers use RTI interventions during school hours and community members continue those interventions after school through mentoring, service learning, academic support and family engagement.
Clare Dudzinski is one of four AmeriCorps Promise Fellows working in the Northfield school district this year. Clare provides tutoring in the core academic subjects (English, math, science, and social studies) to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students at Northfield Middle School, and helps to coordinate the Middle School Youth Center (MSYC), a free, after school drop-in program aimed at strengthening academic and social skills. Clare frequently partners with the TORCH (Tackling Obstacles, Raising College Hopes) coordinator, who works with students who are low-income, minority, or first-generation college students. These students are already demonstrating improvements this year in attendance, engagement, organizational skills and assignment completion.
Clare is continuing the tradition of AmeriCorps members who are making a difference in Northfield. In 2006, the graduation rate for Latino students in Northfield was 36 percent. By 2010 the percentage rose to more than 90 percent. According to the ServeMinnesota 2010 Annual Report, "the individualized support provided by AmeriCorps members was an essential ingredient of this success."
So, individuals are volunteering at schools nationwide; so too are community organizations. Partnership is at the heart of the Minnesota Alliance With Youth. Collaboration is the key to ensuring young people have the resources they need to be successful.
In Northfield, it's the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative and Northfield Union of Youth/The Key. Dozens of other organizations are partnering with the Alliance, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girl Scouts, Wilder Foundation, the 4-H program, and many more. We partner with organizations within the communities we serve and we partner with larger organizations regionally or statewide. These organizations represent the nonprofit, for-profit and public sectors. It is a powerful list of passionate, giving people.
We also partner with youth, one of our most precious untapped resources — all of us will benefit from meaningfully engaging young people in our lives. At the Alliance, youth and adults are equal contributors in our work. A diverse group of youth serves on our Minnesota Youth Council to provide their perspective in dialogues with legislators and local officials.
We encourage organizations, adults and youth interested in helping youth reach their full potential to contact us at www.mnyouth.net.