AmeriCorps, often called the “domestic Peace Corps,” is a network of national service programs offering opportunities for adults of all ages to address a broad range of critical community needs. Since 1993, more than one million AmeriCorps members have pledged to “get things done” for their community and country. ServeMinnesota administers 13 AmeriCorps programs in the state, including Minnesota Reading Corps – the nation’s largest AmeriCorps tutoring program. Reading Corps tutors use evidence-based strategies to help children, age 3 to grade 3, get ready for Kindergarten and on track to become successful readers by the end of third grade. The program began in 2003 serving 250 children and has grown to serve 30,000 kids at 800 sites across Minnesota today. In fact, the Minnesota Reading Corps model has been so successful that eleven other states and Washington, D.C., have replicated it.
Research has shown that if children are not reading at grade level by third grade, they are at risk of academic failure. A rigorous study conducted by the University of Chicago study showed that elementary and PreK students who receive Reading Corps get significantly better outcomes than students who do not receive Reading Corps. In fact, Reading Corps is helping to close the achievement gap. Students with higher risk factors made greater gains. This is true in any setting – urban, suburban or rural. In Minnesota, this success has translated into an estimated $9 million per year savings to the state in special education costs, as fewer children are referred due to early intervention with Reading Corps.
New data management system that can scale and grow
All that data about the children in the Reading Corps program has to be recorded, of course. Users of this system include Reading Corps tutors, program management staff, and schools where the Reading Corps program is implemented. Over the years, previous data management systems became inadequate for the size and scope as Reading Corps grew.
“Users were frustrated with the need to enter data in several places, as well as the difficulty of retrieving information,” explained Research Director David Parker, PhD. “It was difficult to create custom reports and the user interface was not built specifically for Reading Corps. We needed a new system that offered more flexibility and would scale with us as Reading Corps continues to grow.”
Fortunately, Parker found Ben Swift to lead the project to develop a tailored system. Swift recognized that ServeMinnesota did not have the in-house technical knowledge or manpower to create a custom system. Just a couple of months into his tenure, Swift put out an RFP from which he chose four software development firms to interview. Ultimately, Coherent Solutions won the contract to build a new Reading Corps Data Management System (RCDMS).