Project Reach Empowers Compton Unified Students

Project Reach is increasingly being recognized for its work at Compton Unified School District. According to District of Administration, the work carried out by Project Reach helped empower students and assist in helping them develop job and literacy skills in a district with overwhelming high-needs.

In January 2015, Project Reach (PR), a comprehensive K-12 tutoring initiative utilizing college students to provide academic support services to schools in Compton Unified School District, established a joint partnership with Compton Unified, CSU Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) College of Education (COE) and the California STEM Institute for Innovation and Improvement at CSUDH (CSI3).

In the partnership, Project Reach hires college students who are trained to tutor K-12 students in a variety of subject areas. Tutors are recruited from primarily CSUDH, but students from other universities and community colleges in the Los Angeles area are appointed. Tutors coach Compton Unified children in the core areas of Mathematics, English Language Arts, English Language Development, Science and Social studies.

Data shows that in the short time Project Reach tutors started working at Compton Schools; they made a visible difference in academic performance.

A rigorous recruitment process and training created by Sandra Ramos—Project Reach’s coordinator—has built in many practices that identify students who are a good fit for the program and allow tutors who are eventually hired—to meet high academic standards.

Thus far, the program places emphasis on hiring tutors from the communities that are being served resulting in many of the tutors being familiar with the community, and who are willing to work closely with the schools they themselves attended.

Dr. Hamdan, Executive Director of CSI3 explained, “[The students] develop [an attitude that says] ‘I too can make it because I too look like my tutor. I too look like my teacher and maybe I can go to college and be like them.’”

Erin Walker, Compton Unified School District Elementary Instructional Services Administrator said to tutors at a luncheon in May of this year, “We had a first grade class at one of our school sites and unfortunately the teacher had to go out [on long-term leave]. Then we had a series of substitutes and it really, really impacted their reading. We got their scores and the kids were in the red. And what that means is that they were basically failing every part of the reading assessment. So our directors said, ‘We can’t have this.’ So we partnered with Dr. Hamdan and we got some tutors in the classroom because the substitutes kept rotating. Within six weeks, we had zero students in that class scoring in the red. That’s amazing, the entire class.”

Accompanying the initial goals for Project Reach to assist in enhancing the academic performance of Compton Unified students, is the benefits for tutors who receive support and resources to carry out their work. Because of the effective implementation of these goals, there have been some tangible outcomes. Tutors gained substantial professional experience and personal growth.

“One of the major themes we experienced was inspiration. Either the students inspired us to go to work or we inspired the students to keep working,” said Joshua Gonzalez, Project Reach tutor.

Brianna Haywood explained how students’ evolved when she explained, “At the beginning, the students would not talk or wanted to participate or do their work, but gradually they started to open up and began to talk and ask more questions. In the end, they wanted to be more involved.”

So impressed by the impact of the program, Compton Unified asked for dozens of tutors to remain for their summer program. Moreover, Walker extended an offer for tutors to consider teaching in the school district upon completion of their college studies; thus creating a localized pipeline from tutors to teachers.

“When I went to the board meeting not too long ago, you would not believe how many people said to me that they want to continue,” told Dr. Hamdan.

Project Reach just finished its first summer tutor training is currently recruiting more tutors to work in Compton Unified for the 2016-2017 years.

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