AmeriCorps in Action

5 Ways to Be a High-Performing Principal in Reading Corps and Math Corps

As the new year approaches, it is time to start planning for the next school year. Yes, it seems early, but actually, the best principals begin planning for the next school year in January. I know how busy you principals are EVERY time of the year, and so here is an abbreviated list to get you started for 2020-2021 school year.

Former Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools Julia Espe
This article was written by Dr. Julia Espe, Ed.D., former superintendent of Princeton Schools.
  1. First, you might ask, “Why should I sign up for Reading Corps and Math Corps next year?” The reason is clear. Reading Corps has been found to be an effective scientific evidence proven intervention to help beginning readers to unlock the code in reading. The interventions are customized for each student to learn in a phonics approach. For Math Corps, small groups of students receive additional instruction in key areas in order to become better in algebraic principles.  This will help them to be more proficient in mathematics in general.  In short, both programs are effective.  Why wouldn’t you want to have them available for your students?
  2. In order to make your Reading and Math Corps programs work effectively, you need to think about who you will assign as an Internal Coach in your school. If you have instructional coaches, lead teachers or literary coaches, etc., these people are excellent leaders for your program. It is ideal to assign professionals who do not have classrooms, as they will be participating in training sessions in August and throughout the school year. Having flexibility with their time to be able to observe fidelity in the programs is critical. It is not too early to intentionally plan for this position for next year. Talk to your prospective Internal Coach about the importance of the position in the competence of the students.
  3. Another area to consider planning is the scheduling time for interventions.  Students should not miss core instruction for interventions. It should be a “double scoop” — that is, it should be in addition to core instruction, not instead of core instruction.  Deliberating about your schedule next year should be done now. How will you schedule your school to make room for interventions? How will it impact specialists? How will it impact all teachers? It is time to have frank discussions about how you and your teachers will create a schedule that gives ample time for core instruction, as well as intervention time. Change in schedules may be needed, and critical communication with everyone about the “why” of the change is essential for successful planning and implementation for next year.
  4. Think about the value of this program.  You get tutors at no cost (Reading Corps) or little cost (Math Corps). This is a great value for your students.  Internal Coaches are the only real dollar cost for your school.The other savings is the savings of not having as many students with learning disabilities in your school. Instead of having students who need special education services, you are, by offering these interventions, not having to identify as many students with learning needs.  This translates into more students getting the assistance up front, in early elementary years, rather than trying to fill educational gaps later.Talk to your superintendent about the value of this program in terms of funding, as well as avoiding learning disabilities in the future. (And if you’d like more information about how these programs offset special education costs, please read this column that I wrote for the September 2019 Monthly Principal Briefing.)
  5. Finding the tutors for next year is so important.  Just as you carefully select teachers and other staff for your school, you should be very involved with the selection and assignment of the tutors for your school. Pay attention to the number of tutors awarded to you, and start scoping out the best tutors you can find. Some tips:
    -Look for parents who are interested in entering the job market.
    -Approach your best volunteers.
    -Be on the lookout for people who are new in the area and might have talent in math or good with children.  Maybe someone is looking at how to get a “foot in the door” to work in your school.
    -Approach new retirees who are looking for positions that make a difference.
    -Think about high school seniors who do not have a plan after graduation and may be looking for a gap year experience, or look for recent high school graduates who are still trying to find their place in the world or attending college part-time.

These top five actions will get you going in making your 2020-2021 school year start smoothly.  Most of all, remember to register now since awards are made in the next month.
Good luck with the second half of your current school year, and thank you for getting your next year started!

— Julia Espe, Ed. D.


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