Extending Opportunities —
The transition from elementary to middle school is often characterized by a marked decline in achievement, particularly for low-income students, as they grapple with the increasingly challenging class structure and academic expectations. Over the past five years, the Alum Rock School District (ARUSD) has substantially improved elementary school performance while the middle schools have lagged behind. In 2012 the District developed an extended day program specifically to bridge the critical elementary-to-middle school transition, expanding its successful partnership with City Year, a non-profit whose Corps Members tutor, mentor, and serve as role models. Nearly all of the 300+ sixth-grade students at Mathson and Fischer Middle Schools were enrolled.
The highly structured model included 500 hours of academic programming taught by credentialed teachers and City Year Corps Members, 17-24 year-olds who devote 10 months to supporting at-risk students. The School District staffs aligned the in-school and after-school instructional programs, trained City Year Corps Members in teaching strategies and instructional planning, and tutored students with the greatest educational challenges. Students received numerous services: small group and 1:1 literacy support; technology-based individualized math instruction aimed at algebra readiness; “Project Based Learning” to build students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills; and a “Bridge Block” designed to prepare students to take ownership for their education through character development and college readiness.
The focus of the program was to significantly increase the number of students meeting grade level standards and achieving proficiency on standardized tests. Program performance was measured by attendance, student grades, and standardized tests, including two mid-year assessments and the end-of-year STAR tests. The program has shown promising results, particularly at Fischer Middle School, with over 80% of participating students achieving a B or better in the first quarter, and attendance rates averaging 90%. Early assessments showed a dramatic decrease in students in the two schools performing at the lowest levels: a 50% drop in Math and a 30% drop in Literacy.
Other highlights included a “Night of Extraordinary Student Work” in which students presented their “Project Based Learning” work to over 200 students, family members, and school staff.