Staying on track
Story and photo by Samantha Tipler | Herald and News
Zurick Jefferson, 13, walked up to Ponderosa Middle School language arts teacher Brent Glidden with his notebook in hand and asked, “am I supposed to copy the notes out of the book?”
“That’s a fair question,” Glidden said. “We took notes as a class. So that’s fair to copy.”
Zurick and Glidden were meeting in a classroom, but it wasn’t class time. It was during a special tutoring session after school, part of the 21st Century Community Learning Center’s program at the Klamath Falls City Schools. In addition to art, science and PE activities, Pondo instituted a new program for students to get extra academic help after school.
“It is quite benefiting,” Zurick said, on his first day participating in the tutoring session. “It’ll help me get caught up on my work and probably I’ll have a better understanding on what to do in class.”
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers after school program is in its third year at city schools. At Ponderosa, student participation has hovered around the 30-student mark, said Principal Daymond Monteith. Staff wanted to increase the students participating and offer help to students who need it.
On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Ponderosa teachers volunteer an hour of time to help students and teachers recommend students who need the extra help. So far number of after school participants at Pondo have increased from about 30 to 50.
Monteith said the tutoring time focuses on three options: additional instruction, test makeup and homework help.
“Some of our kids, for a variety of reasons, don’t have a great spot at home to do homework. They have responsibilities at home, or there’s not a quiet location, or they’re playing video games,” Monteith said. “Whatever the case might be. We can provide the opportunity for about an hour to have structured homework time.”
“Every student is working on something different,” Glidden said.
When asked if he’d seen students improve from participating, Glidden said, “Absolutely.”
“In one 45-minute time period, I’ve seen an overall quarter grade move up a full letter grade,” he said.
Glidden’s class sizes range from 25 to as many as 40 students.
“So when I have 30 students in the room, to stop and take five minutes for one student at the cost of 29 others, it’s just too difficult,” he said.
But during the after school tutoring hour, there is time to pay attention to individual students’ needs.
“How do you fill in where a student has missed something, if you don’t have extra time?” He said. “So this is extra time to fill in those little gaps that we’ve noticed.”
Zurick said he liked having the extra time, too.
“It’s quite easier because there’s less people. And I talk a lot, so it helps having less people,” he said. “I’m a slow worker and I would like to get caught up.”
“Come in, get what you need and leave when you’re done. The open-door policy really seems to work well. It’s non-threatening,” Glidden said. “It’s not rushed. So it’s very easy to relax and have a constructive, positive interaction, when during a hectic day we might not be able to take that time.”
When teachers recommend students for the after school tutoring time, Monteith wants to make sure students and families know it’s a positive thing.
“We’re really trying to encourage families to recognize that this is not punitive. It’s really supportive and it’s really in your best interest to take advantage of that support. It really is trying to get families on our side,” he said. “We’re trying to really support a partnership between the students, the parent and the family. None of us can do it alone, but together we certainly can.”
On the road to 100 percent high school graduation — a goal of the Klamath Promise and the Klamath Falls City Schools — is making sure each student is ready for the next grade. Adding time for students to catch up, to get extra help from teachers, to make up tests and have that focused homework time keys into those goals, Monteith said.
“Ultimately our goal would be every student who leaves eighth grade is prepared to be successful at Klamath Union High School. Similarly, every student who leaves sixth grade needs to be prepared for seventh grade, and eighth grade and so on and so forth,” he said. “If we do that successfully, every senior graduates.”
That could be a lofty goal, but a good goal worth having, he said.
“If you don’t shoot for the stars we’ll never get there.”