I — like many Americans — have been engaging in a daily routine of relief every afternoon that the news does not report another school shooting.
But the violence in low-income, urban areas where I’ve lived and worked are also on my mind. I was a teacher in South Central Los Angeles, where my students risked their safety simply by walking to school. I’m from Chicago, a city notorious worldwide for its rate of violent crime (when I lived in London and mentioned I’m from Chicago, a typical response was, “Isn’t that the murder capital of America?”). And a prior student from St. Louis, Reh’yen — a black, male teenager, one of my all-time favorite students — was shot and killed a few months ago, an incident I am still grappling with.
Panel photo via @_abetterchicago on Twitter
And yet, data presented at a recent conference — A Better Chicago’s annualEducation Summit — was still shocking to me: In a survey of six hundred African American students in Chicago, one third reported seeing a dead body not related to a funeral. How can we possibly expect kids to focus (let alone flourish) in school when this kind of violence is an inescapable reality? And how can we accept that there is only 1 social worker per 1,200 students in Chicago Public Schools?
Weeks later I continue to be taken aback by the raw, simple, and necessary words of the panelists who spoke on the topic of violence at the Summit.Continue reading →
The success of Match Charter Public School, which serves low-income students in grades preK-12 in Boston, is due in part to the emphasis it places on something rather boring: tutoring. Match’s students receive two full hours of two-on-one tutoring each day through its Match Corps program. All students receive tutoring in math and English; at the high school level, students additionally receive tutoring in the humanities and sciences.
Corps members commit to tutor at the school for a full academic year; they are paid a stipend—approximately $17,000—and receive subsidized housing (some even live in the renovated, dorm-like top floor of Match’s high school). Match has designed its school schedule to seamlessly incorporate students’ tutoring sessions into the school day.
And it works—incredibly well. As a former teacher, this seems like a no-brainer. The middle school classrooms in which I taught typically had 25-30 students in them, and class periods lasted about 50 minutes. In the best-case scenario, this means that each kid could have no more than two minutes of my undivided attention. Match’s tutors can do what I could only dream of doing: provide each student with two hours of individualized support every day.