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Fifth grader Jonathan Eifealdt is one of 25 Math Corps students in Detroit Lakes who entered the program this year being very close to proficient, but just needed a little extra boost from tutor Dana Motschenbacher.

Students get a boost

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Students get a boost
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They call it the "domestic peace corps," and it's now inside the Detroit Lakes School District.

It's the first year the Reading and Math Corps have been infused into the schools, which has new tutors placed into both Roosevelt and Rossman.

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The new tutors are hired through the district, but at no cost to it as the federally funded program grants certain schools the extra positions.

So far, four new tutors are busy working with approximately 50 students between the two elementary schools -- 25 for math, 25 for reading.

"What makes this program so unique is that it isn't for the most struggling kids, it's for the kids who just need a little extra boost," said Jen Hendrickson, instructional coach for the district, "We'll start with the kids who are closest to proficiency and then move down."

The idea behind the program is that kids who are truly struggling academically can typically get help through Title I programs or special education, but students who just have a tough time with certain concepts can often times be overlooked. Schools with students who fall in this middle category can apply for this supplemental help, and this year, Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Lake Park-Audubon received it.

The Reading Corps is for students in grades kindergarten through third, as the goal is to get every child reading proficiently by grade three when they should be reading to learn instead of learning how to read.

"So every day the students in the program are pulled out and brought down to read one-on-one with an adult for 20 minutes," said Hendrickson, who says it's amazing what those 100 minutes a week can do for a child.

The Math Corps is a little different, in that it is for students in the fourth and fifth grade who teeter on proficiency.

They come down in groups of two and work with the tutor for 90 minutes a week, which according to Roosevelt Math Corps Tutor Dana Motschenbacher, helps students' skills exponentially.

"When you're in a classroom with 25 students and there is one student struggling with one little thing, you can't pick that out right away," said Motschenbacher. "But this way, I'm watching them as they do the problem and I can see exactly where they are struggling and help them right away."

Motschenbacher, who is technically employed by AmeriCorps, doesn't get a lot of money for the amount of time she puts in, (less than $1,000 a month for a required 1,720 hours in an 11-month period) but she says she loves doing it.

"I received my teaching degree last year from MSUM, but couldn't get my actual teaching license until summer when most of the teaching positions were already closed, so I thought this would be a great way to get involved."

If Motschenbacher completes all of her hours, she also gets a $5,550 education grant at the end of her 11-months to apply towards her own student loans.

Meanwhile, she says she is enjoying her new gig.

"I love it when you can see it in a student's eyes when something has just "clicked" -- when they get it," said Motschenbacher. "It makes it all worth it."

Teaching degrees and experience isn't required for these positions, just a high school degree and a passion for helping kids, as these jobs are seen more as community service than typical employment.

Reading Corps Tutor Lorie Blomseth of Detroit Lakes doesn't have a teaching degree, but when she sits down to read with children one-on-one, it doesn't matter.

"I enjoy it so much, just being with the kids is fun and reading with them and watching them learn .... watching them improve," said Blomseth.

And improvement is the No. 1 goal here, as the students are carefully monitored and assessed weekly to ensure the program is working.

Hendrickson says she knows it works because there have already been students who have exited out because they've attained proficiency.

But just because they exit the program, doesn't mean they are forgotten. The newly boosted students are still assessed throughout the year and even into the next year to make sure they are staying on track.

The hope is that the program will bring their MCA test scores up while helping to ensure these students continue to excel.

The tutor positions are granted on a yearly basis, but Hendrickson believes if the program goes as successfully as she thinks it will, that Detroit Lakes has a good shot at getting approved for it again next year.

Until then, the district is still looking for one more Reading Corps tutor as well as volunteers to help in one of the Math Corps programs.

To find out more, call Jen Hendrickson at Roosevelt Elementary or go onto the district website at www.dlschools.com.

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