Emanuel delivers on promise to expand 'math tutoring on steroids'
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter March 31, 2014 10:44AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel | Sun-Times files
Updated: May 2, 2014 6:15AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday used $2.5 million in corporate and foundation grants to deliver on his promise to expand to 1,000 students a program that has produced eye-popping results by combining “math tutoring on steroids” with sports-based mentoring for troubled teens.
The expansion that Emanuel promised in January was made possible by a $1.5 million donation from the Equi-Trust Life Insurance Company and a $1 million pledge from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Emanuel characterized the $2.5 million infusion as “incredible investments” in tackling Chicago’s “most urgent” goals: “improving school outcomes,” keeping kids safe and putting them on a path to success.
The Match Education program began two years ago with 106 freshmen and sophomores at Harper High School. The intensive tutoring program that currently serves 600 students at a dozen Chicago Public high schools will now be expanded to 1,000 students.
Half of them will simultaneously participate in a sports-based mentoring program for troubled teens known as “Becoming a Man” that has attracted the attention of President Barack Obama.
“The support has put us across the finish line in securing funding to provide 1,000 students with the opportunity to participate in a rigorous tutoring program with a proven track record of success,” the mayor was quoted as saying in a news release.
“This partnership is part of a larger, city-wide strategy to invest in expanding youth access to learning, mentoring and employment opportunities that will better ensure all of our students graduate 100 percent college-ready and 100 percent college-bound.”
Anne Milgram, vice president of criminal justice at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, noted that the benefits of Match intensive tutoring “may extend beyond the classroom” and into the streets.
“We are hopeful that this program may also be able to reduce violent crime and improve the lives of at-risk youth,” Milgram was quoted as saying.
Two months ago, Emanuel vowed to expand the Match Education program after touting an amazing turnaround for participating students who started anywhere from four-to-seven years behind grade level.
In just eight months, 106 participating freshmen and sophomores at Harper learned in math what the average American high school student takes three years to learn, according to a report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The students were chronic absentees on track to become dropouts, having missed an average of five weeks of school. They were in the 22nd percentile in math test scores the previous school year.
But with an hour of remedial work each day during the 2012-13 school year from tutors working with no more than two students at a time, they managed to close more than half of the average gap in math test scores between white and black students, the study showed.
They also flunked two fewer courses than students who did not participate. Their likelihood of being “on track” for graduation rose by nearly one-half.
“We have been led to believe that teenaged boys — particularly teenaged boys of color — by the time they get to high school, it may be too late,” Dr. Tim Knowles of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute said during a roundtable discussion with Emanuel and stakeholders on that day.
“If I was to rebrand the story here, I would call it simply, `It’s not too late,’ which is very, very powerful for the city of Chicago.”
Emanuel responded by saying he was so thrilled with the results in cracking what he called the “hardest nut of urban education,” he was determined to expand the program to 1,000 students and beyond.
“You never have to give up on kids. You may have to figure out a different way of doing it. But, what this shows is, don’t ever throw the towel in on the kids. If you figure out another way to speak to them [and] educate them to who they are, you can get them to graduation day,” the mayor said then.
“We’re going to get to 1,000 and, if it stays promising, we’re going to keep growing this so we can reach all of these kids who are at risk. The hardest population: young men of color. Get `em to graduation day [and] out of trouble.”
If future studies produced similar results in closing 60 percent of the racial divide in math, the mayor said he would have “a case” to appeal to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former Chicago Schools CEO, to “reprogram federal education funds for an even bigger expansion, instead of asking foundations to bankroll it.
“The reason I talked to all of the foundations when we met at McCormick Place was, `Get us up to a level where they won’t see this as an aberration, but it’s consistent two years in a row with a wide spectrum of kids, then say, `We’d like to reprogram these federal dollars.’ You don’t need more money. You just need the money spent smartly,'” the mayor said on that day.