Marquette student community service is moving into the classroom through an after-school program at Milwaukee’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, located at 3275 N. 3rd St. The group, After School Arts and Tutoring, is led by College of Arts & Sciences senior C. Terrence Anderson and three other Marquette students.
The group aims to close the achievement gap between students in Milwaukee Public Schools and other schools in the nation as well as to improve the school’s academic culture.
The elementary school has been on MPS’ “districts identified for improvement” list for three years, according to its 2009-’10 online report card. Students at the school under-perform in both math and reading on standardized tests.
“Less than 50 percent of (the students) will graduate from high school — we hope to change that,” Anderson said.
The group began to organize last semester with the help of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and offers after-school help in reading, math, social studies, language arts and art. The group has 45 volunteers and is working to get students from other Milwaukee colleges involved.
Anderson said the group’s main focus is on fourth graders.
“The education gap begins to set in during the fourth grade year,” he said.
Anderson said what sets the group apart from other services in the area is its commitment to mentoring, and he acknowledged the reciprocal relationship it brings.
“We’re not only investing in their lives — they’re investing in our lives,” he said.
Anderson said the main message the group wants to send to students is not just to listen to them during tutoring, but for the students to be themselves.
“Our future success depends on their success,” he said. “In order for Milwaukee to be successful, every kid in Milwaukee has to have a chance to be successful. We have an opportunity to be in solidarity with that notion.”
The group’s presence has already been requested by another school in Milwaukee, Anderson said.
Sharon Chubbuck, an associate professor of educational policy and leadership studies in the College of Education, said there is no quick fix in attempting to improve under-performing schools.
Chubbuck said education majors spend three semesters doing field work learning how to teach reading and math to elementary students.
“We appreciate the concern and energy that the tutors value the students’ experience enough to say, ‘I want to make it better,'” Chubbuck said.
Helen Hillis, campus campaign coordinator for Teach for America and a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences , said the personal relationship between tutors and students is very important.
Hillis said Teach for America emphasizes one-on-one relationships with students and their families so students are not overlooked.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” Hillis said. “Teach for America recognizes that.”
Milwaukee Public Schools appreciates the help from organizations such as Anderson’s, said Roseann St. Aubin, communications director for Milwaukee Public Schools.
“We are delighted to have help,” St. Aubin said. She said tutoring will help MPS close its achievement gap.
St. Aubin also recognizes the benefits of the one-on-one relationships volunteers forge with students.
“We love the stability it brings into our schools, the stability it brings to student relationships,” she said. “It helps the students understand that college could be ahead of them through the behaviors that are modeled by Marquette students.”