Match To Chicago

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

“For 40 years, we’ve had a lock ’em up approach for these kids,” Ludwig said. “What is exciting about BAM and (the math tutoring) is that it overturns the idea that we should write these teens off.”

The tutoring is modeled on the MATCH Education charter schools in Boston. MATCH-style math tutoring has already proven effective in the Houston public schools and in other school systems, Ludwig said.

The University of Chicago plans to hire 38 tutors for the expanded combination math and BAM program next year. Already, 200 people have applied for the jobs. MATCH will provide 10 employees to supervise the tutors."

My colleague Alan is leading this work.  He met with UChi's Jens Ludwig last year and began planning the collaboration.  It's similar to the work Match has begun in the Lawrence Public Schools. 

A key idea: it's hard to expect a high school math teacher to a) teach the new stuff (algebra, geometry, etc), and b) concurrently remediate the old stuff (fractions, decimals, even basic addition).  What do you do? 

One solution is to provide full-time tutors who give a single year of service.  The teacher is freed to teach new concepts, the tutor can fill it the gaps from previous years. 

The notion of full-time math tutors is spreading.  Collaborating with Roland Fryer, Match helped recruit and deploy 200 with the Houston school district.  Roland's team has since brought the tutors to the Denver school district, and soon to Springfield (MA) and Boston.  Meanwhile, Mike Duffy and Jared Tailefer have brought the Match Corps approach to Newark. 

The Match Education goal is to learn.  The Chicago project has 2 particular types of appeal.  First, leading social scientists can measure the effect very carefully.  We believe that good data can make more Denver-like situations come about: taxpayers agree to pay more for a proven intervention; the city can hire more tutors without displacing other investments; teachers are freed up to focus less on remediation; students make giant achievement gains. 

Second, we'll be combined with another intervention, called BAM (Becoming A Man).  In addition to helping kids learn, we hope to have an effect on choices that adolscent boys make, particularly as they pertain to gang activity. 

A very early test run in Chicago this past year has been promising: 

James Millar, a 25-year-old tutor at Harper, said he’s seen major improvements among his students.

“For the most part, our students couldn’t even add integers effectively. They struggled with a question like ‘what is 7 plus 8?’ ”

Millar, a University of Illinois graduate, said his students have been studying fractions and decimals. But he said they sometimes have to stop to learn more basic math concepts they missed in their early education.

“You feel like you are working against the clock,” Millar said. “But this year I had far more achievements than frustration.”

He believes many of his students have never worked 45 minutes straight on any academic task.

“You work three minutes straight one day, five minutes the next and build up their stamina,” he said.

So how does that translate into less crime?

“A lot of these students have met goals like getting on the honor roll,” Millar said. “If you are on the street and you have a goal, it will make you think twice about engaging in behaviors that will prevent you from achieving those goals.”

One of his students, Ronald Liggon, said the combination of BAM and math tutoring changed his life.

In BAM, the students discuss each other’s problems and help each other out, Ronald said. They also learn athletic skills. They’re currently training to box, said the 16-year-old sophomore from Englewood.

Ronald said he’s always enjoyed math. He is currently working with the tutors on the Pythagorean theorem used to calculate the length of a right triangle’s sides.

“I learned that in seventh grade, but it was a challenge to me. Not anymore,” Ronald said.

His goal is to get As in every one of his classes this semester.

“I used to clown around in class,” he said. “Not now. I love it.”

Read the whole thing here