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Office of School and Community Partnerships
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University

oscp projects

The TC Reading & Math Buddy program is a school improvement project designed to support the development of the lowest-performing students in 1st & 3rd grades. Dr. Dawn Arno founded the program in 2004.

Reading & Math Buddies are graduate students who work with struggling students in public schools. The Buddies serve as catalysts for creating paradigmatic change in the schools in which they work. The graduate students who serve as Buddies come from all departments at Teachers College and spend two hours per day in schools working one-on-one with students. They are key to the creation of new knowledge about teaching and learning in their respective schools. This new knowledge contributes to leadership development & organizational learning, necessary factors for improvement of low performing organizations & public schools. 

Buddies attend training sessions for two and a half hours every morning for three weeks, prior to beginning tutoring in schools. This year 42 Buddies are in the following six schools:

PS 30 – Hernandez Hughes

PS 76 – A. Philip Randolph

PS 154 – Harriet Tubman

IS 195 - Roberto Clemente

PS 200 - The James Mccune Smith School

IS 286. - Renaissance Military Leadership Academy

The Reading & Math Buddy program is designed to be “embedded”, i.e. delivered in-school during the school-day. Systemic and contextual issues (within schools) that interfere with students’ opportunities to learn are examined and addressed with the relevant classroom teacher, administrator and school or school district leader as deemed appropriate. Regular dialogue helps to uncover patterns of behavior within schools that interfere and undermine student learning.  Such dialogue is critical to the success of the programs and requires a willingness and openness for collaboration and cooperation between the Buddies, classroom teachers and administrators.

The Reading Buddy component uses a balanced approach, providing systematic daily instruction in phonics, while also addressing the development of vocabulary and comprehension through a whole language approach, “reading to” and “reading with” a child for 25 minutes per day in a one-to-one setting. The goal of the program is to provide struggling readers in grades 1 and 3 with the skills necessary for the development of automaticity in reading, so that comprehension is not hindered by the student’s inability to decode or decipher the printed symbols/words.

The Math Buddy component is designed to build conceptual knowledge and the mathematical skills necessary for successful performance in the school district’s Everyday Mathematics program. A major emphasis of the program is the development of mathematical problem solving with particular attention to discourse about the child’s own thinking processes – developing metacognition. The Math Buddy element has a specific focus on the use of math language during the 30 minute tutoring sessions.

The Reading & Math Buddy program also provides opportunities for informal professional development for teachers and administrators, and promotes the discipline of team learning within school and among participants in the program. Buddies are expected to learn and function as a team with their classroom teachers/school partners. It is further expected that the Buddies will in turn impact the learning of the larger organizational systems in which they work, both within the College and in their assigned classrooms and schools, impacting the school system, the family and the communities in which they serve as tutors.

The program focuses on the development of :

  • an appropriate context that is supportive of the learner and learning, and that provides Positive Proximal Processes (PPP) for students as learners;
  • the student’s confidence in his/her ability to learn,  and on providing the supports and adequate Time to Mastery (TTM) for the learner; and
  • developing thinking and learning skills through rich and challenging instructional content.