JCHS graduation coach Bonnie Peters explained the program Friday. She said she took students’ Algebra I test scores and worked out a tutoring schedule for those not making the grade.
Peters said the tutoring was the idea of Principal Chuck Gibson in preparing for the graduation test in 2008.
“Obviously it worked because we had a 97 percent pass rate in math,” she said.
Jones County’s graduation rate also increased from 68 percent in 2007 to 75 percent in 2008.
Peters said the focus on the tutoring is math and language arts. She said math is the target for January and language arts in February, leading up to the graduation test in March.
Last year students with scores below 70 received the tutoring, but this year the tutoring has been expanded to anyone scoring 79 or below.
“The tutoring in large part is refreshing things that they learned in previous years,” Peters said.
Gibson said he would like to encourage the parents of these students to support the tutoring efforts.
“Economic times are tough, and that means it’s going to be more competitive when they enter the job market,” he said.
The principal said teachers have gone above and beyond their jobs in participating in the tutoring. Twenty-minute sessions are taking place at 8:15 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. as well as during lunch. The students have 40 minutes for lunch especially designed to allow time for tutoring.
Gibson said the tutoring program is being led by Peters.
“We need to pick up steam. A lot can be done in eight weeks,” he pointed out. “Look at the renovations in this building. They were all done in eight weeks.”
He said special-needs students are also included in the tutoring classes. The scores of special-needs students improved 25 percent last year.
“We do understand that tutoring is a supplement. The main event is focusing during class, but the pretests allow teachers to know weaknesses and strengths,” Gibson said.
The math department has taken on the challenge of raising the test scores, according to Peters.
“The commitment of the faculty is amazing,” she added.
Gibson said, in addition to tutoring by teachers, a peer tutoring program is being put into place and will be funded from a small communities grant.
“If one student is touched by this and passes, it’s been worth it. Everything here is about student achievement,” he stated.
Peters said one of the most amazing things that has happened since the tutoring program began was that four students not flagged for it came to her and asked for help.
She said the math teachers are joined by foreign language, chorus, language arts, special education teachers, and she has had retired teachers volunteer. Math teachers Kandance Kemp, Angela Jones, and Rachel Horkan are three of the tutors and joined Peters Friday to discuss the program.
Kemp, who is the math department chairman, said students are not typically excited about math, but they are realizing they need it to graduate.
“We have met five times and not one of them has come with a bad attitude, and I’ve heard no complaints,” she said.
Horkan said she agrees the students realize they have to conquer math and they are appreciative. Jones said, as a teacher, she wants students to learn.
“It thrills us to see they want help,” Jones said.
Horkan said she is excited to watch students’ faces when they understand, and Jones said she can see confidence building as they learn more.
“It’s nice to have students in small groups so we can build personal relationships,” Horkan said.
Peters said she received complaints from some parents when the tutoring started last year. This year she received one call.
“I think they saw the previous class and saw that it worked,” Horkan suggested.
Jones said she believes students are less intimidated in the smaller classes and ask more questions, and Horkan agreed that they are taking more responsibility and ask for help with their weaknesses.
“If we make AYP, that’s fine; but if students are successful, that’s what all this is for,” Peters said.