Volunteers Key to Success of Tutoring Programs in Appleton Schools

Appleton Area School District has been refining and improving its reading and math tutoring programs for more than two decades, but there is one thing that hasn’t changed – volunteers remain the heart and soul of the programs.

Volunteer tutors who work with first-graders in the United for Reading Success (UFRS) program support their efforts to learn to read and celebrate their successes.
The program is aligned with AASD’s reading curriculum and instruction and is intended to build confidence and create lifelong readers and learners.

Volunteer tutors Susan Ahrens (back, from left), Chris Church, Kathy Moderson, Mary Gage, Dorothy (Dottie) Weber, along with Sherry Tysver (seated) are among more than 300 tutors in the Appleton Area School District who work with students, including Henry Pruitt (front, from left), Mel Williams and Andy Hernandez at Jefferson Elementary School.

The structure of each 30-minute session includes time for the tutor to read to the student and time to work together on a list of high frequency words. For the last 10 minutes of each session, the student reads. This provides practice and allows the student to discover new things, opening doors to new adventures, opportunities and a brighter future.

Tutors who work with second-, third- and fourth-graders in the Math Achievement Partnership (MAP) program help students improve their basic math skills by reinforcing the concepts being taught in the classroom. Tutors use prepared activities and games to review and support what students are learning in the classroom in addition/subtraction and multiplication/division.

About 180 students are enrolled in UFRS and MAP at 15 elementary schools in the district. Julie Bargholtz, the community engagement coordinator, explained that while the district provides the infrastructure, they rely on volunteer tutors because they do not have enough staff to provide one-to-one support.

More than 300 tutors meet one-on-one with a student every week.

“The volunteers are the heart and soul of our program, there is no doubt about that,” she said. “Our dedicated volunteers are crucial and truly are the ones responsible for the success of the students enrolled in our Math Achievement Partnership and United for Reading Success. Their increased literacy and math skills are due to those volunteers who are there on a day-to-day basis providing one-to-one support. Without that, we would not see the positive trends that we have been seeing.”

The district uses a standardized scale, the Rasch Unit scale (RIT), to measure a student’s level of achievement in a particular subject.

“Over the last two years, the score has increased by six points,” she said. “That data shows a positive trend, which indicates that the average score will continue to grow in years to come for students utilizing our program.”

Pictured at Houdini Elementary School are volunteer tutor Bill Olson (clockwise, from left), staff members Abby Vanevenhoven, Pam VandeHei, MAP Volunteer Site Coordinator Dennis Schulz and staff members Amanda Carey and Lisa Poss.

Bargholtz shares a real-life success story about a first-grader at Lincoln Elementary School. He was born prematurely and developed health issues. He was not at the benchmark of where he should be with reading, so he participated in UFRS. Today, he is entering his senior year of college.

“It is exciting to hear that this individual had the opportunity to participate in our program because without the base literacy, the likelihood of transitioning to a college education is somewhat unlikely,” she said. “It all works cohesively. UFRS was a critical piece of the  puzzle that helped him achieve his success in college.”

The first day of UFRS tutoring for the 2019-20 school year is Oct. 7. MAP tutoring begins Oct. 14.

Substitute tutors also are needed to fill in when regular scheduled tutors cannot make it, which is a perfect role for volunteers who do not want to commit to a weekly schedule.

Volunteers interested in tutoring should contact Carol or Jan at rsvp@volunteerfoxcities.org or 920-832-9360.


What: UFRS Tutor Training
When: Thursday, Sept. 19: 9-11a.m. or 1-3 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 24: 9-11 a.m. or 1-3 p.m.
Where: First United Methodist Church

325 East Franklin St., Appleton

What: MAP Tutor Training
When: Wednesday, Sept. 25: 9-10:30 a.m.

Where: Houdini Elementary School
2305 W. Capitol Dr., Appleton

Can’t make the training dates? Site coordinators at each school can provide training and updates.