UNC Charlotte Magazine
Third Quarter 2011
“UNC Charlotte Grad Students Step Up to Aid Middle School Students”
Acey Boyce and Katelyn Doran are both graduate students in Computer Science. It’s not unusual that they would spend several hours each week poring over lessons plans, guiding students through complex assignments and working on new video game designs. What makes them stand out is that they are doing this with a bunch of students from Martin Luther King Middle School.
Boyce and Doran are part of UNC Charlotte’s collaboration with Citizen Schools, the Boston based initiative founded in 1995 to extend the school day for students in low-performing schools. In the 10-week after-school apprenticeship program, community professionals lead hands-on workshops in everything from cooking to health care to engineering to science.
“Our focus is on middle school because that’s where we lose the kids. That’s when they decide if school is for them or not,” said Cassie McIntyre, director of civic engagement for Citizen Schools of North Carolina.
This innovative model seems to be working. Nationally, nine of out 10 Citizen Schools’ students passed state math and English exams. They also go on to graduate at a 20 percent higher rate than their peers who do not participate in the program.
“Right away, we identified UNC Charlotte as an organization that could provide good volunteers for Citizen Schools,” said McIntyre. “In exchange, we were giving them a way for their students to get experience working in the classrooms.”
The partnership is in its sixth semester. So far, about 20 students from the Computer Science and Psychology departments within UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing & Informatics have led the apprenticeships at Eastway and Martin Luther King middle schools, both Title One schools where more than 50 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch and lag behind their peers in academic performance. In exchange for their participation, the students satisfy a communityservice
requirement or receive one class credit.
U.S. STUDENTS SLIP IN RANKINGS
In a recent survey comparing the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries, the United States slipped in the standings, ranking 14th in reading skills, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics. It’s hard to keep pace when, compared to other nations, U.S. students have a shorter school day and school year. They currently spend just 20 percent of their waking hours in the classroom. Severe budget cuts are causing a further reduction in classroom time and school resources.
While some families can address the gap with enrichment programs and online learning, many low-income kids lack those opportunities. Citizen Schools was established to fill that gap.