Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Saturday School

Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement, Inc.
Silver Spring, Maryland

Key Characteristics


Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement, located at a high school, is a Saturday program in which volunteers from high schools, universities, and various professions tutor students in math, science, and English. The program, begun in 1992 and designed to increase the number of Hispanic students who graduate from high school prepared to pursue a career in math or science, emphasizes individualized instruction and self-esteem building. The program also uses Total Quality Management (TQM) techniques to build leadership skills in participants. All student tutors are volunteers, but those who help manage other tutors receive college tuition reimbursement.

School Context

Silver Spring is a middle-income suburb of Washington, D.C., that is home to at least 55,000 Latinos, many from El Salvador and other Central American countries. Blair High School, which houses the Saturday program, has the county's second-highest enrollment of students who are nonnative English speakers. Approximately 19 percent of Blair's students are Hispanic, 30 percent are Anglo, 32 percent are African American, 17 percent are Asian, and less than 1 percent are Native American. Roughly 43 percent of the students in Blair's enrollment area qualify for free or reduced-price meals; 70 percent come from households with an annual income of $18,000 or less.

The Saturday tutoring project began in November 1992. This voluntary program now serves 245 students in grades 1-12, of whom about 130 attend for three hours every week. There are 90 registered tutors, of which about one third are high school students, one third are college students, and one third are professionals from the community. Seventy percent of the tutors and all of the students are Hispanic. Approximately 20 percent of the students have limited English proficiency. Students opt to participate in the program, often at the suggestion of parents, teachers, or peers.

Major Program Features

Implementation Issues

The project director had initial difficulty in "selling" his project to the local schools, which were wary of yet another outside program and reluctant to commit resources or support. According to the director, the school system also was not used to targeting Hispanic students except as recipients of ESOL or immigrant services. To overcome this reluctance, the director found an ally within the school system--in this case, an assistant principal who helped the program obtain space in a school cafeteria and approved its recruitment process.

Disseminating information to the tutors and students has also been difficult because of a lack of cooperation by some teachers. However, the project director says that the barriers are steadily disappearing as the tutoring program gains more popularity and legitimacy; in spite of the large number of volunteer tutors he now recruits, he says it never seems to be enough to keep up with the ever-increasing number of students who want to be tutored.

Another challenge has been finding a stable source of funding; the project must apply for grants from many public and private sources to continue the program.

Evidence of Success

Indicators of the program's success include the high student attendance rate and low tutor attrition rate. In 1993-94, the program served 245 students. The primary reason that students give for dropping out of the program is lack of transportation.

There are many anecdotal reports from parents, students, tutors, and teachers that document the impact the Saturday program has had on students. According to the high school assistant principal, one student had been in special education classes and was failing almost every subject. Within a year of joining the program, the student became a tutor and is now on the honor roll. When asked what made the difference, the student said that before becoming involved in the Saturday program he never felt that he was capable of success. Since no one believed in him, he failed to believe in himself; but once he became involved in the program, he saw that his tutor believed he could succeed and he began to believe in himself.

The increasing popularity of the program also provides evidence of its success. The project director may limit the number of students served because word-of-mouth communication has caused so many to sign up. The project director now is grappling with the issue of how to evaluate the project. He plans to compile and analyze the results of student and teacher surveys that were completed during the last year.

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