Nearly eight years after a group of reform-minded Yale Law students founded the Amistad Academy to help close the achievement gap between urban and suburban schools, Yalies have begun working to reestablish the University’s connection with the New Haven charter school.
About 15 undergraduates from Yale and other area colleges will begin a weekly five-hour tutoring pilot program at the urban middle school this weekend, Amistad Superintendent Doug McCurry said. The program, which is slated to run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, will consist of specialized one-on-one help to aid in the development of students’ English and math skills.
“What we’re trying to do is a new intensive tutoring program where the students really focus on the skills that [they] need to develop,” McCurry said.
The tutors will be assigned to individual eighth graders in order to personally tailor the lesson plans to the specific segments of the curricula the students find difficult, Amistad faculty member Jeff Sudmyer said. But he said the new program’s focus on personal attention does not mean it will merely serve as an answer key for student homework.
Shanah Tirado ’08, one of the tutors from Yale, said she finds this individual approach effective.
“Specific emphasis is placed in accordance with the student’s needs,” Tirado said.
Although the program has not yet officially begun, the tutors have already become involved with the academy, having completed an intense application process and a long training session last Saturday. Sudmyer said the application process was designed to be particularly thorough in order to ensure that the tutors were qualified, and required a 45-minute interview in addition to a resume with two references.
Tutor Jessica Bell ’06 said she recognizes the need for the care that went into the screening process, but she said it was relatively stressful.
“The interview was a bit intense, asking questions about any tutoring experience, academic interests, experience with children and the like,” Bell said.
At the training session, the college students were introduced to Amistad Academy’s mission and their expectations of organization, focus and positive attitudes, Tirado said.
“[The program] appears to be serious about education and the maintenance of certain academic standards,” she said.
Tutor Swetha Totapally ’09 said the assembled tutors spent much of their training learning about their students’ individual needs and weaknesses, but also role-played and practiced more general methods of teaching and motivation.
The program has not attracted as much interest from Yale students as Amistad had hoped, Sudmyer and McCurry said. Although Sudmyer said he is currently pleased with the tutors who are available, he said he hopes for even greater student participation in the near future.
“It’s one of those things where the more help, the better,” Sudmyer said.
McCurry, who said he is disappointed with the number of applicants, said he hopes to have at least 30 tutors for the next year in order to maintain the program’s emphasis on individual tutoring.
“I hope they are able to employ more tutors so that more students who want and need the one-on-one help can get it,” Bell said.
The program this year is designed to forge strong relations with Yale students, McCurry said. Next year, Amistad Academy hopes to expand the tutoring program to include ninth graders and look for continuing Yale support, he said.