Pathway Tutoring program connects teacher candidates to community youth

Contact: Chris Hybels

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—"I have had the most eye-opening, positive and fulfilling experience," exclaims Camille Konrad, a teacher candidate in the Pathway Tutoring program. Like many other teacher candidates in the program, she is completing her field experience with Western Michigan University and the Boys & Girls Club of Kalamazoo's collaborative tutoring program. The program is an opportunity for teacher candidates to help improve the literacy of students and apply skills from their courses.

The Pathway Tutoring program started in 2019 through Western’s Department of Psychology, with the mission of reducing the number of students at that time who would've been affected by Michigan’s Read by Grade 3 law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was suspended and moved to the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies, where it resumed in late 2021. 

“We were working primarily with second and third graders and we’ve kind of changed after COVID,” says Dr. Kate LaLonde, assistant professor of special education. “The mission is still the same, but we’re targeting kindergarten, first grade and second grade because the more they go on, the further the gap. So, we’re just trying to close that gap sooner.”

Youth who participate in the program receive around 30 to 45 minutes of instruction per session. The quick-paced program combines integral parts of reading instruction to provide significant support to reading proficiency. 

“Teacher candidates start out by typically using a rapport-building exercise, like playing a game or finding out what motivates a student to learn,” says LaLonde. “So, the first 20 minutes is pretty much teacher led. And for the last half of the session, students are reading a skill-level-appropriate decodable, and we’re basing this intervention on what we know to be effective.”

For teacher candidates, the program provides meaningful field experience to increase skills in behavior management, academic intervention and assessment, and progress monitoring to measure student growth. 

“The Pathway Tutoring program is an opportunity to implement everything they’ve learned about behavioral management twice a week for up to two hours. As well as implementing what they’re learning from their methods and content courses about academic intervention. So, it’s kind of like bringing all the pieces of their program together,” says LaLonde.

Approximately 20 teacher candidates have received preparation in evidence-based academic assessment and intervention through this field experience. Candidates also receive progress monitoring from instructors or graduate assistants during most sessions. The program also emphasizes service and relationships with the community.

"There have been so many settings as an educator that I felt as if I didn't leave any sort of impact. At the club, I walk out the door every day and feel like I left an impact on at least one student if not more. Being a part of such a supportive community like the Boys and Girls Club is a very special thing. I learned so much and have gained some of the most valuable experiences through the program," says Konrad.

To date, the program has provided tutoring to 50 K-2 students, with half of them graduating from the program already. According to staff from the Boys & Girls Club, they’ve also seen an increase in parental involvement from Pathway Tutoring.

“It’s a fantastic partnership, and we have demonstrated success for literacy improvements for the children that are participating,” says Dr. Kristal Ehrhardt, interim dean of the College of Education and Human Development. “It has also been very beneficial to our students. We have practicum students in the fall semester who participate, and we’ve seen gains in their literacy instruction from participation.” 

The after-school program is funded by grants from the City of Kalamazoo Federal American Rescue Plan sponsored by The United Way; and the Kalamazoo County Federal American Rescue Plan sponsored by Kalamazoo County. The funding is used to purchase instructional materials and pay student tutors $15/hour. 


In 2016, the Michigan Legislature passed the Read by Grade 3 Law to identify learners who are struggling with reading and writing to provide them support. According to former Gov. Rick Snyder, the law was needed to provide students with the necessary skills to perform well in school. As part of the law, students who were not able to score one or more grade level behind the third grade reading level on the Michigan Student Test of Education (M-STEP) would be held back. This section of the law was referred to as the "read or flunk" provision. 

The provision was revoked in March 2023 after a bill sponsored by former teacher, Sen. Dayna Polehanki, was signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Polehanki introduced the bill after a report was published by Michigan State University's Education Policy Innovation Collaborative. In the report, researchers found that the law was unequal to students in lower-performing districts and Black students particularly, who were 4.5 times as likely to be retention eligible than white students.

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