Minnesota schools' failure to show gains in state math and reading test scores and a narrowing, yet persistent, achievement gap between student groups has intensified calls for extra help in both subjects.

Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps aim to train and place 1,700 tutors for the 2019-20 school year in schools across the state to help more than 35,000 students struggling with reading and math.

"When we look at the statewide test, we're seeing some results that are concerning to us," said Julia Quanrud, the director of innovation and strategic partnerships for Minnesota Reading Corps and Math Corps. "One of the wonderful things about these two programs is that often times students just need a little extra practice and a little extra support and a kind, caring adult."

For three years in a row, statewide reading scores have remained flat, with only 60% of students meeting state benchmarks for proficiency in the 2017-18 school year, according to state education data. Meanwhile, math scores have declined, with only 57% of students achieving state standards that same year.

The test scores also reveal stark disparities between student groups.

There's a 35-percentage-point difference between white and black students in reading, and a 38-percentage-point gap in math. The gulf is even wider for students in schools in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Officials from the tutoring program said Wednesday they are in need of more than 200 tutors to work in schools in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul alone.

Tutors will work between 18 and 35 hours a week and will receive a biweekly stipend. Eligible tutors also can earn up to an additional $4,200 to pay for student loans or tuition, money which could be transferred to a family member if the tutor is 55 years or older, according to program officials.

The job also features other benefits, such as free health insurance and child care assistance.

Minnesota Reading Corps and Math Corps will provide ongoing training and coaches to support tutors throughout the school year.

Reading Corps and Math Corps are statewide initiatives that train thousands of tutors to help struggling students become successful readers by the end of third grade and proficient in math by the end of eighth grade.

Anyone interested in the program may apply at readingandmath.net.

Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203