WASHINGTON – When male athletes at Murphy High School in Mobile,Ala.,need help with homework,they find it in the privacy of their school's field house where teammates and classmates tutor them after school.
For young men especially,getting help with homework after school isn't that “cool,” said Diane Maisel,assistant principal of Murphy High School at a conference Friday.
Typically male students are shyer about seeking help with homework,so being tutored by other males in a more private setting,with the encouragement of their coaches,has helped these boys keep up with their schoolwork.
Students falling behind in school are among the most likely to drop out,and this after-school tutoring program exemplifies the techniques used by successful schools and highlighted in a report released at the conference.
“On Course for Success,” presented by the Education Trust and ACT,an independent,not-for-profit organization that administers college entrance exams,looked at 10 successful high schools with significant minority and low-income populations across the country to analyze how these schools were helping their students succeed.
To participate,at least 40 percent of the school’s population had to be a minority and at least 50 percent had to be low-income. Students also had to have good ACT test scores for the schools to be included in the study.
The schools have been successful in producing a higher-than-average proportion of graduates who are “college ready,” according to ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks.
Among the study's findings: high-level college-oriented courses,well-qualified teachers,interactive teaching styles and tutorial support were the 10 schools' most effective techniques.
“These teachers left nothing to chance,” said Stephanie Robinson,principal partner at the Education Trust and one of the report's authors. “These teachers were really into their disciplines.”
Despite problems many minority and low-income schools face,administrators found innovative ways to help these students,even with limited resources.
At Murphy High School,administrators worked with students and community leaders to offer a culinary arts course,as well as a class about world health. High-achieving students tutor any other students who need help in English and math in after-school sessions,Maisel said.
At Lewis Cass Technical High School in Detroit,English teachers from different grades talk frequently about goals for their students. This helps teachers who will soon teach those students understand their new students' backgrounds,said Norman Grange,the school's assistant principal.
“We stress our students out,” Grange joked. “You are supposed to love Cass after you get out.”
Students at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa,Okla.,can enroll in the International Baccalaureate diploma program,a competitive and rigorous course of study for students interested in international university study,said Principal Debi Boyles.
Administrators at South Texas High School for Health Professions in Mercedes,Texas,use a “customer service” approach to ensure students are getting the best education possible,said Principal Barbara Heater. The practical curriculum takes students into nursing homes and doctors' offices to get hands-on experience in fields they are interested in.
Del Norte High School in Albuquerque,N.M.,recently began a dual enrollment program. Advanced students attend school four days a week and take classes at a community college one day a week. Other students attend school five days a week,and when the advanced students aren't there,teachers focus on students who need more help,said Mary Stein,a manager in ACT's education division.
As budget cuts continue to put strains on school administrators,schools like Murphy High School are coming up with more creative ways to get funds,Maisel said.
Murphy depends heavily on donations and grants from graduates,she said. Many alumni come back to Murphy to recruit students for their universities,she said.
Lewis Cass receives some funding from Title I,which helps improve the academic achievement of children in high-poverty schools,Grange said. Partnerships with corporations have helped replace lost federal funding. For example,Ford Motor Co. recently funded an activity in which students split groups and competed to see which team could most effectively market the new Ford Mustang.