Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

November 26, 2012

North Park kids giving it the old college try

TUTORS: Niagara University students offering junior high schoolers a little extra help.

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It could be called students helping students, just one group is a little older.

Kids at North Park Junior High School are getting a little extra help from college students. And the relationship is yielding some positive results.

Lockport City Schools, North Park and Niagara University have started a unique partnership. Niagara sends graduate students to help tutor kids in academic need. The program, Promoting Academic Student Success or PASS, gives assistance to junior high students that need it and work experience to the tutors.

The partnership started when North Park saw a need. At the school, there’s a group of teachers who meet with at-risk kids, students who need extensive academic help. The school monitors grades and test scores, so those kids who struggle are flagged and placed into North Park’s Response to Intervention program. The RTI teachers teach, but they also instill organization and study skills in the kids.

Last year, a group of teachers volunteered to be on the RTI team. RTI was working, but there were so many more kids to reach. And a few teachers wouldn’t be able to work with so many students, said Shawn Murray, North Park assistant principal.

“The program went well, but we weren’t hitting as many as we wanted,” Murray said.

Murray and Lindsey Calabrese, the school’s psychologist, reached out to local colleges about sending graduate students. Niagara responded immediately, Murray said.

“It’s win-win for everybody,” he said. “Most importantly the students get the attention they need to be successful. And the graduate student get experience working in the field. They can see the fruits of their labor.”

Throughout the week, the tutor meets once each with about 10 to 12 North Park kids. The partnership allows for one-on-one tutoring, which gives the student individual attention. There are about 65 to 70 North Park kids and six tutors in the PASS program.

Feedback has been great. A few North Park kids have told Murray the program has been great, while the school has received positive comments from the graduate students themselves.

And it is working. PASS has been operational for six weeks, but already 30 students have improved enough to be moved out of the program and into a monitoring status.

Eighth-grader Alex Ball is one of the North Park students working with a tutor. It’s been a positive relationship.

“It helps you stay organized and do your homework,” Ball said. 

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.