Thursday, February 13, 2003

Saturday's a school day


Pupils come in for test tutoring or to catch up classwork

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Instead of watching Teamo Supremo or just sleeping late on Saturday mornings, hundreds of Greater Cincinnati kids are going to school.

More charter and public elementary and high schools this year are offering weekend tutoring and requiring classes.

With new federal demands requiring schools to show improvement in student achievement, school officials say they have to do whatever it takes to raise grades and help students pass state tests.

[photo] Elijah Allen, 8, studies the action of a kinescope during a Saturday session at Maud Booth Academy. The children attending that day got a special presentation from a group called Mad Science of Cincinnati.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
Saturday school is not new to students at Conner Middle School in Boone County. They've had the option for three years to attend Saturday make-up work sessions with their parents once every six weeks.

But kids at Hoffman Elementary in Walnut Hills can attend proficiency test tutoring on Saturdays for the first time this year. And students at Taft Elementary in Mount Auburn receive expanded proficiency tutoring on Saturdays under new Principal David M. Schmitz.

Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School in the West End this year launched a credit recovery class on Saturdays as well as optional tutoring. And Withrow University High School in Hyde Park last week began offering a four-week Saturday tutoring program that drew more than 80 students.

Some charter students at TCP World Academy in Pleasant Ridge, Maud Booth Academy, downtown, and W.E.B. DuBois Academy in Over-the-Rhine have been spending their Saturdays learning how periscopes work or practicing math and reading.

DuBois requires students to attend on Sunday, too, if they need help preparing for state tests. East End Community Heritage School plans to start Saturday tutoring programs within weeks.

While most programs are optional, Maud Booth students are required to attend every other Saturday, and about a dozen kids at DuBois must attend on weekends from January through March.

"We feel like our children need more enrichment experiences," said Marie Hanna, director of Maud Booth, which opened this school year. "We want to make sure they experience things they would not experience at home."

Students at the 70-student K-3 charter school are from the city's most impoverished neighborhoods, including Over-the-Rhine, Corryville, Mount Auburn and the West End.

Very few students who attend Maud Booth have home computers or access to reading materials the school can provide, Hanna said.

Last Saturday, an education entertainment group called Mad Science of Cincinnati taught optical illusions and how to make periscopes. The week before, pupils studied dry ice and learned how solids, liquids and gases change form.

"It's fun," said Lauryne Hodge, 7, of Saturday school. "We have the mad scientists here and we get to take things home."

All the lessons at Maud Booth are geared to state academic standards.

"We want it to be fun, but we have to work smart," Hanna said. "We know they need valuable practice."

At DuBois, about a dozen students in the fifth and sixth grades who need help preparing for the March proficiency tests are required to attend Saturday or Sunday school or both from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The program began after winter break and will run through March.

Students can be excused if they have a religious objection.

The extra time gives the small groups special attention from the math and reading specialists, said school Superintendent Wilson Willard.

"These are students who we feel with the additional assistance will pass the proficiency tests," Willard said. "They really want to pass and are not fighting being there."

At Taft high, a handful of students come for tutoring on Saturdays, while about 10 more students are required to attend class from 9 a.m. to noon to make up a physical science or biology credit.

Sophomore Steven Turner, 16, said he's doesn't mind the Saturday physical science class.

"Last year, I didn't really understand what I was doing," he said. "I didn't really feel comfortable telling the teachers I didn't understand because most of the people in my classroom did. I felt kind of ashamed to ask `How do we do this?'"

Steven failed that class. "Now I'm doing fine and getting more help," he said.

Some organizations oppose the extra days when they are geared solely toward preparing for tests.

"We think it's a sad situation when schools feel they have to devote their limited resources to test preparation programs," said Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, a Cambridge, Mass.-based advocacy organization that is critical of the emphasis on standardized testing.

"It would be much better spent on real education."

E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com




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