"Now I come home from work and he is already studying."
Four days a week, students at James P. Timilty Middle School, in the middle of Boston's low-income Roxbury neighborhood, spend 90 more minutes in class than any other Boston public-school student. In addition to its extended-day program, Timilty also offers an anti-violence program and a comprehensive academic curriculum. In 1989, Timilty was cited by the U.S. Department of Education as an exemplary school, in large part because of its extended-day program, PROJECT PROMISE.
Timilty did not always get rave reviews. In the early 1980s, it was considered one of the worst schools in Boston. Suspension rates were high. Test results were low. Instead of winning national awards, it was labeled a problem.
But with PROJECT PROMISE, attendance rates have increased, test scores in mathematics and reading have improved, and suspension rates have dropped dramatically.
A citywide magnet school, Timilty is open to any Boston public-school student. Ethnically diverse, most of its 580 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders come from low-income backgrounds. It is the most frequently selected middle school in the city, according to principal Roger Harris who says: "We try to make learning fun. I insist that students experience success."
Parents like what they are offered. Parent Natalie Carithers said that when her son was in sixth grade she had trouble getting him to study. "Now, when I come home from work, he is already studying, and he is studying all the way until his homework is done."
Students are expected to do writing assignments in every class. In fact they are expected to submit seven writing projects a month, says Harris. Moreover, Timilty involves the community in its writing program through a unique pen-pal program, Promising Pals. Students write at least four letters to people with interesting careers in Boston. Then they and their pen pals meet for the first time at a breakfast reception in the spring at the school.
Reading is also serious business at Timilty. The class day ends with DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), a 15-minute period during which all people in the building, including secretaries and janitors, put aside whatever they are doing and read silently to themselves. During the extra 90-minute periods from Monday to Thursday, half the time is devoted to reading and half to a mathematics class. Every student experiences two math classes and two reading classes daily.
And the school takes computers seriously as well. In the promotional materials made available to parents as part of the city's choice plan, the school stresses that is has "lots of computer education," including an IBM lab, TEAMS/Telecommunications for math and science, MACINTOSH lab, and "lots more."
Undoubtedly Timilty students take a ribbing from their peers in schools with regular class schedules, but they do not appear to pay much attention. "I think we get to learn more and the teachers make it more fun," said Massie Lle, a sixth-grader.
For additional information:
Roger F. Harris
Timilty Middle School
205 Roxbury Street
Roxbury, MA 02119