New CPS Math Tutoring Program Aims to Reduce School Violence

By Wendell Hutson on June 13, 2013 8:57am 

CHICAGO — The University of Chicago's Urban Education and Crime Labs and Match Education are partnering with Chicago Public Schools beginning this fall to offer math tutoring sessions to 1,000 boys at 12 city schools in hopes of reducing school violence.

The 12 schools have not yet been identified but schools chosen would more than likely be on the South and West sides, said Roseanna Ander, executive director of the university's Urban Education and Crime Labs. The program was piloted this year at Little Village Elementary and William Harper High School, CPS officials said.

"The list is still being compiled but should be completed in the next week or so and will include one or two elementary schools and the rest high schools," Ander said. "The tutoring begins when school starts back and will run through the end of the 2015 school year."

She said math was chosen over reading "because our research could not find any studies that showed less violent crimes were committed by students who improved their reading, although reading is important and could be looked at down the road."

Eventually the tutoring sessions, which will be elective courses, would be offered to girls but for now the program will concentrate on boys, said Alan Safran, president of Match Education, a Boston-based national tutoring program.

"Males are the most at-risk of committing a crime or being a victim of a violent crime. That's why we are starting with them first," Safran said.

The sessions would be offered during the regular school day, not after school, Safran said, and students would receive a letter grade (A-F) for their effort. There would be one tutor for every two students, he said.

Safran said all tutors are college graduates and must make a one-year commitment at an annual salary of $17,000. Because Safran anticipates that most of the schools chosen for the program would have a predominately minority student population, most of the tutors are black and Hispanic and all come from Chicago.

"We know that there are some students who do not speak English well and a bilingual teacher would be needed. We want tutors to reflect the students and that's why we are making sure we have a diverse pool of tutors," he added.

Ander said studies have shown that when students are doing better in school they do not commit crimes.

"That's where this program comes into play. We see what great success the Becoming A Man program had on reducing violence at high schools and now we want to piggyback off of it by coupling this program with BAM," Ander said.

Becoming a Man is a youth mentoring program available at 10 elementary and eight high schools, CPS spokeswoman Wendy Fine said. Among them are Little Village Elementary and Harper High, which had the math tutoring pilot program this year.

Among youths involved in Becoming a Man there has been a 40 percent reduction in violent crimes, an increase in high school graduation rates by 10 percent and 37 percent fewer students failing classes, according to an evaluation by the University of Chicago's Crime Lab.

Earlier this year, the city increased funding for the program, which is run by the Youth Guidance organization, from $1 million to $3 million. The MacArthur Foundation is helping fund the tutoring program.

“With this significant investment, Youth Guidance's BAM program will help thousands of young men find evidence of their worth, strengthen their connection to and success in school, and help build safer communities,” said Michelle Morrison, director of Youth Guidance. “We are honored to be a part of this important effort to reduce youth violence, increase school achievement and help Chicago's young men reach their full potential.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday giving students a double dose of tutoring and mentoring was just what the doctor ordered.

“Grounded in critical tutoring and mentoring, Match and Becoming A Man are innovative programs that are helping Chicago become a national leader in providing our most vulnerable youth with new opportunities they need to succeed," Emanuel said, in an emailed statement.

"We are committed to investing in these and similar proven programs, which underscore that everyone can play a role in ensuring our youth have a path to a brighter future.”

One Harper student said he was on target to graduate in 2016 thanks to both the math and tutoring programs at his school.

"The BAM program has helped me become a man and is helping me complete my goal of graduating from high school and going to college," said Arjay Howard, a 16-year-old sophomore.

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