• Tutor program fills in reading gap for Charlotte students


    Read Charlotte and the Helps Education Fund released results Wednesday of a new tutoring initiative that launched in 10 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools elementary schools in the 2018-19 school year.  According to Read Charlotte, the results prove that the reading achievement gap in Mecklenburg County can be closed.


    “We are incredibly encouraged by these results,” said Munro Richardson, Read Charlotte executive director. “It far exceeds what we expect to see from reading interventions in general and is even greater than what we expected to see based on prior research on HELPS.”


    Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies, an evidence-based reading fluency program developed by professor John Begeny, of North Carolina State University, was used by dozens of community partners and individual volunteers in Charlotte to tutor 155 CMS third graders in the 2018-19 school year.


    It’s part of a larger initiative by Read Charlotte to mobilize the community around a coordinated set of evidence-based programs to improve third grade reading proficiency rates.


    The average CMS third grader who received HELPS 1:1 tutoring started in fall 2018 a full year behind in oral reading fluency. Reading fluency is a student’s ability to read with speed, accuracy and proper expression.


    Research finds strong correlations between reading fluency, comprehension and overall reading achievement.


    An analysis of CMS third graders in 2018 found a 62% correlation between third grade end of year oral reading fluency scores and student performance on the North Carolina end of grade reading assessment.


    In the 2018-19 school year, 46 percent of the students who received HELPS tutoring exceeded national norms for expected growth in oral reading fluency.


    “The power of HELPS is undeniable, and we see a clear path to closing gaps for more kids to achieve greater reading proficiency by the end of third grade,” Richardson said.


    The results are due to the collaboration of many community groups starting in spring 2018. A core group of organizations came together to support the launch and implementation of HELPS in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.


    More than a dozen organizations assisted with tutor recruitment. Read Charlotte coordinated this effort and, where possible, sought to align it with complementary efforts, such as Family Literacy Nights and organized efforts to build children’s home libraries.


    Read Charlotte estimates about 25% of CMS third graders know how to sound out individual words but don’t read with enough speed or accuracy to understand what they are reading.


    The organization has determined it can help more students become proficient readers with a targeted focus on reading fluency with the HELPS 1:1 tutoring program.


    The average third grader who received HELPS tutoring started the school year in fall 2018 reading 51 words correct per minute -- the equivalent of an on-track beginning second grader.


    Students who received at least 50 HELPS fluency tutoring sessions benefited the most and closed 75% of this gap. This is the equivalent of growing just over 1 ½ grade levels in reading fluency in a single year.


    “We couldn’t be more grateful to all of the people and organizations who helped make this happen in the first year. This fall, the goal is to recruit even more partners and tutors to double the number of students served,” Richardson said. “The partnership of schools, the faith community, businesses, higher education, community groups and individuals volunteering to help us carry out this proven program is critical to meeting this goal for children in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.”


    Volunteers complete a CMS background check, attend a three-hour training and begin tutoring one hour each week in select schools following the scripted HELPS program.


    “It was exhilarating to see real improvement in the reading fluency of the kids with whom I worked in HELPS,” said volunteer George Miles. “The kids were also excited at their improvement and it is such an incredible feeling to see them excited about learning.”


    To learn more about becoming a HELPS tutor in the 2019-20 school year, visit ReadCharlotte.org/HELPS.


    If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.

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