Keeping students connected to school with Red Nose Day
During freshman year in high school, Taylor* sometimes ducked out of computer science class for a snack or talked and laughed loudly with a friend rather than tackling a tough coding problem—distracting her classmates and putting herself at a disadvantage on tests.
With the support of City Year Chicago AmeriCorps member Tye Moores, Taylor has strengthened her social and emotional skills, like self-management, setting goals and teamwork—which is helping her navigate the abrupt transition to distance learning because of COVID-19. When Taylor wrestles with a geometry problem at home, she reaches out for online help to her teacher and Moores, who is in her second year of service at Chicago Academy High School.
Positive, consistent and caring relationships between students and AmeriCorps members at the 350 public schools that partner with City Year are helping to keep more young people engaged with classwork as the pandemic disconnects many students from their school communities and threatens to derail educational opportunities that can shape their future.
“Education is such a basic need,’’ said Moores, who received her bachelor’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Art—Chicago. “I’ve had so many more opportunities in life versus family members who were only able to go to high school.”
Students who received support from City Year AmeriCorps members improved their social and emotional skills, got better grades and test scores and improved their attendance—key metrics associated with high school graduation, according to new research from the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.
Together, Comcast NBCUniversal and Red Nose Day sponsor 23 teams of City Year AmeriCorps members serving in 16 cities across the country—including Moores’ team at Chicago Academy High School.
New study shows City Year’s approach works
The Johns Hopkins study, released this month, shows how social and emotional development is intertwined with academic growth and educational outcomes. The research focused on nearly 40,000 students City Year served across 28 U.S. cities in 2017-2018.
The more hours that students received tutoring, small-group instruction, mentoring and other kinds of support from a City Year AmeriCorps member, the better attendance and grades in the subject they were tutored in, like English and math, according to the Johns Hopkins research.
City Year partners with public school districts that have the lowest high school graduation rates, providing students at 350 systemically under-resourced schools across the country with additional supports to help more students stay on track to graduate ready for college and career. Half of the students who don’t get a high school diploma in the U.S. come from just 6% of school districts.
Finding new ways to support students through virtual service
Taylor, who is quick witted and outgoing, has gotten better at recognizing frustration and managing it—for example by taking a walk when she needs a break from classwork, said Moores, who tutored and mentored Taylor as a freshman and now as a sophomore. Taylor also has improved her organizational skills, which are helping her get assignments in on time during distance learning, Moores said.
After COVID-19 closed schools and districts transitioned to virtual classes, Moores has helped students upload assignments correctly and connect to online teacher office hours. Moores stays in regular contact with students and parents through the district’s online learning platform and is using her graphic design skills to create materials—like a step-by-step math video—to help tutor Taylor and other students in geometry the way she used to in person at school.
“Math has a very visual component to it,” Moores said from her Chicago home. “A lot of people need to see the problem worked out.”
Corps members are coordinating every day with administrators to check on student engagement data and reach out to students, especially those that have missed assignments, said Tyler Hildreth, an AmeriCorps team leader, who like Moores is in her second year of service at the Chicago high school. They are among the 3,000 City Year AmeriCorps members serving in public schools every year, part of a network of more than 75,000 people taking part in AmeriCorps national service programs annually across the country.
The social and emotional skills that Taylor is cultivating, such as resilience, problem solving and self-awareness, will help her throughout her life, said Moores—adding that Taylor sometimes reminds her of herself during her own journey as a young black woman in high school.
“Being a black woman regardless of your school, whatever space you’re in, it’s very hard sometimes,’’ Moores said. “The skills that she’s learned will play a pivotal role in what she looks like as a black woman in society, and just as a person, too, by being intentional with her feelings, her emotions, and the effect that that has on her and other people.’’
Moores hopes to see Taylor and other students in person again at the high school—where she’ll start a new job in the fall as a teaching assistant, including helping seniors apply to college.
*Student’s name changed for privacy.
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