Volunteers sought for expanding Interfaith-MPS Tutor Program with clear record of success

MILWAUKEE — After seeing clear signs of significant improvement among participating students, Milwaukee Public Schools and Interfaith Older Adult Programs will expand the successful Interfaith-MPS Tutor Program connecting older adult tutors with MPS students.

That expansion means more volunteers are needed to make a critical difference in the lives of students.

Tutors and leaders of the Interfaith-MPS Tutor Program receive Milwaukee Public Schools’ Excellence in Education award on behalf of the program

Tutors and leaders of the Interfaith-MPS Tutor Program receive Milwaukee Public Schools’ Excellence in Education award on behalf of the program

Just how critical is the difference? A sample group of students receiving tutoring began the program 16.7 percentage points below the MPS average in reading proficiency. By the end, both the tutored sample and the district as a whole posted gains in proficiency – but the tutored students’ gains were larger. Volunteers and students’ work helped narrow the gap to just 2.9 points. In math, volunteers and students narrowed the initial 15.5-point gap to 9.6 points.

“These committed volunteers are taking students who have fallen behind and working with them to move forward,” Superintendent Gregory Thornton said. “There’s clear reason for expansion. Now we begin the push for more volunteer tutors to make it happen!”

Volunteers need not consider themselves “older adults” to apply, but must be willing to commit to spending 90 minutes per week in a classroom throughout the academic year. Tutors receive training to maximize their effectiveness when working with students – and spend the year working in the same classroom.

More than 1,000 students from 28 MPS K-5 and K-8 schools were served in 2011-12 with the help of 182 tutors. The goal of growing by another 100 tutors to serve 50 K-5 and K-8 schools will keep the program on track to serve students in 113 MPS schools by the 2015-16 school year.

Interfaith-MPS tutor Maggie Melvin said that whether she’s working with one student or a small group, she can reinforce the teacher’s lessons to the entire class, clear up any confusion and connect with each student’s background knowledge and learning style.

“For the child, it is special, targeted and focused. For me, it is satisfying, relational and energizing,” Melvin said. “That adds up to a win-win situation.”

A fifth-grade teacher at Goodrich Elementary said her classroom’s tutor brought students from below grade level to, in some cases, above grade level. “They were very excited to read to the class and share their stories. Students became more self-confident, their self-esteem increased and they wanted to present in front of the class.”

The teacher said the tutored students were inspired to then help other students.

Tutors interested in volunteering should contact Robyn Wohlfeil of Interfaith at (414) 220-8657. Reporters interested in speaking with tutors, teachers and students should contact Tony Tagliavia, MPS media manager, at (414) 475-8675.

Milwaukee Public Schools is Wisconsin’s largest school district, serving 80,000 students in more than 160 schools across the city. U.S. News and World Report named MPS’ Rufus King International School and Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School the two best high schools in the state and among the 200 best in the country in 2012. In the past year, Milwaukee Public Schools posted a growing graduation rate 17 points higher than the rate for 2000, growing math standardized test scores representing 10-point growth in the last six years and growing ACT scores.