Experiments often produce unintended results, and that is exactly what happened between Angeles Mesa Elementary School and its big brother down the street–Crenshaw High School.
“Last year (2007) Crenshaw students came and read books to our kids, and we called it a Family Fun Day. Mr. Griffin last year loaned us his A.P. (Advanced Placement) English students one or two times a month for one hour, and they read stories to the kids,” explained Elaine Wrice, categorical programs advisor at Angeles Mesa.
During the 2008-09, that relationship blossomed even further when students taking a World of Education course at Crenshaw with Faneyce McWhinnie became tutors for selected youngsters at Angeles Mesa, a school which has the distinction of being designed by noted African American Architect Paul Williams.
“We weren’t doing too well on our California Standards Tests (CST),” said Wrice, adding that the school was looking for whatever aids they could tap into to help their students improve in language arts (reading).
As a result, twice a week 23 12th graders, many of whom intend to teach, began trekking down from Crenshaw to Angeles Mesa to tutor about 180 children who were scoring far below basic and below basic on the CST. Wrice said the school administrators tried the in-school approach because other tactics had not proved successful.
“We offered Saturday School but didn’t get much of a response,” explained the advisor, who said there were a variety of reasons for the lack of success with other options. “Everybody is trying to get creative,” continued Wrice “. . . We’ve been trying to figure out a variety of ways of getting our students extra support, and Dr. Wrice met with Beverly Silverstein, and we worked together to come to the conclusion, that it might meet the student’s needs as well as the state requirements,” explained Angeles Mesa principal Elizabeth Pratt of the intensive instruction the tutors provided.
To provide the in-school intervention, the seniors received special training, and the goal was to increase the struggling youngsters’ reading fluency, work recognition and comprehension.
The Crenshaw seniors met with each group of youngsters for about 30 minutes each time.
The program also has the dual goal of introducing the Crenshaw students to a real taste of what it is like to teach in hopes that they will be motivated to join the profession. It has done just that for Auria Perez, Jr., who joined the tutoring program because he wants to become an educator. “It has not changed my mind. It was a good experience in how kids work and other things.”
“I love kids . . . and I don’t like to see (them) struggling,” said Brandi Thibodeaux, who wants to be a forensic scientist and a lawyer and still work with children. “I enjoy seeing a smile on their faces and how they engage with us.”
Obviously the test results are not in yet, but if the enthusiasm of the elementary school pupils as they read to their tutors is any measure, then the collaboration between Angeles Mesa and Crenshaw was a definite success.