Governor John Carney sat quietly in a chair watching a second-grade boy from New Castle Elementary School sound out words, while his wife, Tracey Quillen Carney, huddled on the floor next to a third grader as she read an entire story.
Both students are struggling readers, and both receive 45 minutes of one-on-one time with a tutor every day thanks to a program piloted in the Colonial School District called Reading Assist Intervention (RAI).
“That’s an incredible level of intensity,” said RAI Executive Director Caroline O’Neal about the 45 minute daily sessions. “The reason is because the type of students that we work with are those who haven’t been responsive to other kinds of reading interventionists. These are kids who’ve shown the need for extra support,” she said.
O’Neal credits Americorps for that extra support. Americorps is a national volunteer program supported by the federal government that places members with various interests and backgrounds in areas of need for one year, giving them a small stipend to offset living expenses and previous or future tuition payments. In New Castle County, Americorps volunteers are working with RAI as interventionists in nine elementary schools; six of them in the Colonial School District.
Stacey Treut, a reading interventionist employed by Colonial, welcomes the additional support given by RAI and says since the four-year pilot program began she has seen struggling readers suddenly thrive, both in reading proficiency and confidence.
“The program is amazing!” Treut told Governor Carney. The governor said he was impressed with RAI and wonders how it can be expanded statewide.
“We have thousands of students that we’ve got to get to be proficient and we don’t have unlimited resources, so the question for me is always how do you get other schools to do what you’re doing and how to take a program like this and scale it up?” Carney asked.
The question is one that Delaware school administrators and those in the Department of Education are grappling with now with Carney making another observation, “The poorest kids have the hardest times so we need to work together to get reading intervention started early,” he said.