When the pandemic shut down schools in Central Alabama, students, teachers and parents were suddenly faced with an enormous logistical dilemma. Not only were in-person classrooms shut down longer than anticipated, but a survey showed that 25% of Birmingham City School (BCS) students had limited or no internet access, putting them at risk of falling behind academically and needing additional support to get back on track to succeed.
To help counter the learning loss, Birmingham City Schools partnered with United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) to launch an intensive tutoring program in January of 2022. UWCA works with area colleges and universities to recruit service-minded students as tutors and onboard them with the program before BCS matches them with students in the school system.
When describing how the program was conceived, Mark Sullivan, Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools, said, “We wanted to find a way to provide additional support for our students. We’ve done summer programs, extended the school day and provided additional tools. That’s why we reached out to United Way. They are a well-established group that supports this kind of effort. They are champions of this work. As a result, we are now able to have a tutor at all of our schools to work with our students.”
One noticeable area where this high dosage tutoring has made an impact is 3rd grade reading proficiency. Pre-pandemic (2018-2019), the 3rd grade reading proficiency level was at 23.73%. Then that figure dropped to 18.33% during the pandemic. With the help of the tutoring partnership, however, proficiency climbed to 29% between 2021 and 2022, surpassing even pre-pandemic levels.
During the spring semester of 2022, nearly 60 tutors assisted about 400 BCS students. The program operated during the spring and summer semesters and is relaunching this fall with a goal of serving more than 1,000 BCS students during the 2022-23 school year.
Maelyn Senwo, one of the participating college students serving at Putnam Middle School, said, “Honestly, I would still recommend this program to friends because I truly enjoy teaching the students I have. They have been great to teach, and I see the impact I have on these students. I want to tutor at the same school in the future.”
Area college students interested in being a part of this program — and making a real difference in our community and the future of BCS students — can learn more about qualifications and how to apply at http://www.bcstutoring.org/