The following are excerpts from a recent article in Today's Sunbeam highlighting how a New Jersey school district and church have worked together to provide tutoring for disadvantaged students in order to help close the achievement gap:
"It's a little after 5 p.m. on a recent Monday, a time normally when Jatayah Watson, 11, would be playing with her friends. Instead, the fifth-grader was seated in the basement of the Friendship Baptist Church, at a table full of books and homework. For the past eight weeks, she has been one of the 20 students who have come for after-school tutoring."
"Reviewing test data, [Superintendent of Pittsgrove Township School District Loren] Thomas found economically disadvantaged students were not scoring as well as their peers. Due to new reporting guidelines under the No Child Left Behind law, districts can better tell which students need help."
"The statistic troubled Thomas, who wanted to reverse it. His run through the park gave him time to think of a solution. ... Thomas reached out to the community to see what could be done. He met them at the church; a full house greeted him. What they told him, they said, was they felt excluded from the rest of the school district. Brotmanville is at the very end of Pittsgrove, near Vineland and home to a large black population in a mostly white community.
"The fruit of those discussions led to the after-school program; similar such programs were started in the district's other schools. But rather than have this one in Norma School, officials located it where children like fourth-grader Sherman Birkett can walk to from their home. ... Since February, the children came every Monday afternoon beginning at 5 p.m. and lasting two hours. They complete homework and finish assignments one of the two district teachers give them.
"'This has exceeded my expectations,' said Gail Cassidy, a teacher. ... 'We like it,' said Christopher Aten, 7, a first-grader at Olivet Elementary School. He's one of the youngest children here; others are a little older, some in high school. 'I believe it has really helped,' said Robinell Stevenson, a former board of education member and volunteer coordinator."
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