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Arise2Read needs more volunteers to close MSCS learning gap

The non-profit says it can help improve student's literacy rates, but it desperately needs more people to volunteer to provide one-on-one instruction.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Education released the 2022 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test results in early July. 

The results showed   that only 22 percent of Memphis-Shelby County Schools' students read at grade level. The district also released data showing that only 44 percent of second graders read at grade level.  

ARISE2Read is a non-profit that is working to improve those statistics. However, they say they desperately need more tutors to keep students on track. 

Keirian White is a rising 4th grader at Springdale Elementary. He was part of the ARISE2Read program two years ago. 

"It's always been a little nervous for me to read in front of everybody," White said. 

But, since he finished the program, he said he's seen a positive change in his academic performance. 

"I made good grades," White said. "I got an A+ in every single class... It always helped me learn my knowledge about my vocabulary, and then it also helped me improve my knowledge. I don't lose it for the summer when I go back to school."

RELATED: District TCAP scores released | Here's MSCS full report

ARISE2Read Executive Director, Karen Vogelsang, said it's getting harder to help students like White. 

"Pre- COVID, we had 1265 volunteers and because of COVID, this year we saw just under 500 volunteers serving children," Vogelsang said. 

She said it will take nearly 4000 volunteers to truly meet the need they're seeing in MSCS. 

"If we don't have a volunteer to serve a child, that child is not likely to get one-on-one intervention, whether that's in a program like ours or anything else, that child is not going to get that support that they need to address the gap they have."

She shared they normally have around 41 schools they serve in the district, but they've had to cut that down to 35 because of the lack of volunteers. Vogelsang is a former teacher who said the pandemic made the learning loss problem greater. 

"We tested over 850 children," Vogelsang said. "Their average pretest score was 67. That's a mid kindergarten level for second graders. So they're very, very far behind."

RELATED: Memphis-Shelby County Schools places Dr. Joris Ray on paid administrative leave to investigate allegations against him

She said ARISE2Read is unique in improving literacy because volunteers work with students during the school day instead of in an after school setting. Volunteers also come once a week and work with the same student for the entire school year. 

"For those students in the program at post test, 74 percent are on grade level pretest, compared to 18 percent on grade level at post test for those students not included in the program," Vogelsang said. 

She said the need is great, so they want to be able to help even more students. 

"We get enough volunteers for our students that have the most critical need, we can really help the district change that percentage for next year," Vogelsang said. 

The ARISE2Read Kickoff is August 31st. You can register here

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