Fighting Poverty with Passion
|“As of November 25, 2009 New Orleans Science and Math Charter School, a partner school with New Orleans Outreach, was put on probation. On the third year of existence all charter schools are evaluated on attendance, test scores, yearly budgets, and contractual obligations; SciHigh did not perform well enough on test scores to be eligible for a three year charter renewal. What this means for SciHigh is they have one year to improve their test scores or their charter may be revoked.
As an Americorp Vista for New Orleans Outreach and the Center for Public Service (CPS) my job as the volunteer supervisor at SciHigh can and must play a vital role in the success of SciHigh in the future. Currently, SciHigh has 50 plus volunteers that work throughout the school day in classes as well as after school in enrichment programs and tutoring. Twenty-five of these volunteers are from Dr. Cedric Walker’s Service Leaning Course at Tulane University, another 15 of them are federal work study students from Tulane (some of who work over 20 hours a week). These Tulane students work directly with teachers correcting papers to allow teachers to spend more time directly teaching, as well as dedicate hundreds of hours a semester to direct one-on-one tutoring with students falling behind in subjects like AP physics, chemistry, and biology. Their help has service learning reflection journals and teacher reviews. For example, in Dr. Walker’s class Preya Jhita a Tulane Junior wrote about wanting to be a future mentor for the students she worked with in Ms. Madura’s art class and offered them advice on future plans to attend college. A teacher wrote about a work study student from Tulane, “He is incredibly reliable and is always taking initiative to help out however possible, he is doing a wonderful job.” It is clearly evident that great things are happening at SciHigh because of Tulane volunteers; however, how does that translate into quantitative data such as improved test scores?
SciHigh has 90% of its students receiving free or reduced school lunch (a common indicator of poverty). Further, it does not test anyone out of the school. Essentially SciHigh is a Charter school that strives for achievement and cares about its students, but also is caring for the students in New Orleans who need it most. I do not think it is surprising that its scores are lower than expected; SciHigh is battling years of poor education on the part of its students. It is not going to be easy to undue years of poor education but I see clearly that the faculty and staff at SciHigh is not going to give up and volunteers play a key role in this. While visiting Dr. Walker to discuss how the year went the first thing he asked me was, “Why was SciHigh on the front page of the news paper, and how do my students help?” The answer to that question is they are already making a difference. And to ensure this difference is reflected in test scores volunteers at SciHigh for the spring will be paired with students who need help in specific subjects. They will work to target test skills and subjects. SciHigh volunteers have already made immeasurable impacts on disadvantaged youth lives; they will continue to make this impact will working to focusing on targeted strategies to improve test scores. SciHigh students need these volunteers more than ever.” – Kelly Holmes, VISTA Member