Category Archives: Tutors for All Blog: One Student At a Time

One Student At a Time

Tutors for All believes that the achievement gap will be closed in the trenches, one student at a time. This blog builds on our experience running individualized education programs for the last 8 years in district, charter, and parochial schools.

Spring Report: SquashBusters

If you’ve been following Tutors for All for the past ten years, you’ve noticed that students participating in our partnership programs tend to gain about a year in math and literacy. This past spring semester one of our most recent programs, SquashBusters, concluded for the summer and we are thrilled to share with you our program results!

SquashBusters and T4A began their partnership the fall of 2015 by offering 8th graders academic support in math and literacy. Before initiating any tutorials, T4A conducts a set of preliminary exams that helps establish foundation for our students growth in math and literacy, which could then be measured later on with a final assessment. The GRADE tests students in reading comprehension and vocabulary, while the GMADE tests students in three areas; Concepts and Communications, Operations and Computation, and Processes and Applications. Students in the 8th grade are expected to have scores at 8.0 or above.

After reviewing the set of preliminary exams, the average score on the GMADE test was 6.73, with five out of 24 students scoring above grade level. The GRADE test results reflected a much higher proficiency rating, with 15 out of 25 students scoring at or above grade level and the average score being 9.59.

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Students were given the choice to pick the subject they wanted to study, regardless of their preliminary score. In just the first semester, there was an average .50 increase in test scores for students studying Math and an average 1.50 increase in test scores for students studying reading compared to their preliminary exam.

The second semester displayed an even more impressive growth. Students who took the GMADE test had an average increase of 1.05 and students who took the GRADE test had an average increase of 2.05 in their test scores.

The chart below displays the average test scores from students who continued in a particular subject throughout the year. As pictured below, the average growth overall for both exams increased making T4A extremely happy to see our mission come to life by bridging the gap one student at a time!

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In order to provide the most accurate data, we excluded
students who changed subjects during the spring semester
and also students who scored the maximum in each test.

Stay posted to see results from our other spring programs!

Victory is Ours!

It was 4:00pm, the sun was as resilient as ever, and Kickball for All was entering its Semi-Final Championship game. After a few rounds of elimination, only the Final Four would continue: Saved by the Ball, Team Big Green, Young Kickers (combination of Young Bloods + Just for Kicks) and #dabnation. As the teams gathered around and talked over strategies, the big question still remained, who would win it all?

Semi-Final Round 1: #dabnation v Young Kickers
13403841_1121390657926059_7406228577378445679_oThe score was tied and the end of the second round was approaching. The audience was on their feet, who would kick the winning point? Only one team would make it to the championship game and it all came down to a tie breaker rock, paper, scissors battle. Jordy Baez from #dabnation and Chris(not the correct name) from the Young Kickers approached each other at home base, both with a look of determination. Rock. Paper. Scissors. #Dabnations strategic move to play scissors took them to the championship game making this one of the most memorable wins in Kickball for All history!

Semi-Finals Roun2: Team Big Green v Saved by the Ball
It was the ultimate Tutors for All face-off. Stephanie Park vs Joseph Alvarez; could Tutors for All remain the same after this game? It was a close match. Both teams were determined to win. In the last stretch, Saved by the Ball kicks the winning ball, which sent them running into the Championship game.

Championship: #dabnation v Saved by the Ball13320736_1118129774918814_4614197738143973451_o
The moment we have all been waiting for: the Kickball for All Championship game. This was the moment every team had been training for. (Insert highlight of championship game here). Richard Wilson, captain of #dabnation, coached his team into victory. From the sidelines, he motivated them to keep pushing and their hard work paid off! Mark Destler was even made an honorary member of their team as he acted out their signature move, the dab. A picture is truly worth a thousand words.

13392187_1118129778252147_795189637847722141_oShout out to all the teams who came out to support such an amazing cause. We are all winners, we were able to surpass our goal of $15,000, raising enough money to provide more than 1,500 hours of tutoring to Boston Students. A thousands thanks to everyone, we hope to see you all again again next year at K4A 2017!

Thank you for your support!

programWe would like to take the time to thank all of our sponsors. Without their support, Kickball For All wouldn’t have been possible.This year, we were able to double our donations and raised over $15,000, which will provide 1,500 hours of tutoring for students in Boston! #BridgeTheGap

A special thanks to Anna’s Taqueria for providing their delicious burritos and Insomnia Cookies for their scrumptious cookies (which were gone in seconds). Let’s not forget JP Licks for their generous contribution of ice cream and Vita Coco for the much needed refreshing drinks. Most importantly, thank you to all the Tutor for All fans that came out to support, Kickball for All was a success thanks to all of you!

#KickballforAll

Kickball for All is happening June 4th at the Boston Commons Little League Field, and the competition is fierce!  We caught up with some of our team captains to hear what they had to say.

Luisa Baginski and the Amazing Blue Cats
sporty2The photo is a team shot from the very first Kickball for All, where my team from Boston Academy of English (BAE) took the field as “Ballsy Athletic Educators”, and were ignominiously renamed as ‘Teachers With Balls’ by our esteemed leader in the heat of the mc-ing moment. Thanks for that Mark.

I have as much general athletic ability as a geriatric toad, and only for this will I take to the field. I am, however, extremely competitive and “determined”, as I like to think of myself. The word “stubborn” has also been used. So, please do prepare yourself for the bitter taste of defeat because this year that shiny trophy is MINE!

In all seriousness though, I do believe 100% in the work that we do here at Tutors for All, and it’s importance in so many people’s lives. It’s easy to forget when we are face with such huge, insurmountable-seeming problems as inequality, poverty, the achievement gap, that living through these problems are real human individuals, children. The work we do allows us the privilege of reaching those individuals, helping them change their personal story, and knowing the faces and the names behind the numbers. The numbers are impressive, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the names, the real people whose lives we touch, that we do this for. That’s who we are playing for on June 4th, and who we really want to win.

Bring it on people!

Francis Pina and the Kickball for All Warriors (co-captained by Soriya Peng)
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“Kickball is more than kicking a ball, it is an opportunity to overcome past failure!; Failure like the time I missed the frisbee 6 years ago; Failure like the time I missed tossing a paperball in the trash 6 hours ago; Failure like the time I mispelled the word misspelled 6 words ago. Now let’s kick some ball!”

 

 

Mark Destler and the Oldies but Goodies
MDcatch2My name is Mark Destler, and I am the Executive Director of Tutors for All.  I have had the privilege of working with Boston-area kids for the better part of the last 25 years, and Boston youth for the last fifteen.  I’ve been a special education paraprofessional, an English and reading teacher, a special education teacher, and a school administrator (dean, special education, title I).

Ten years ago, I started Tutors for All because I saw first-hand the power of 1-1 tutoring to transform the lives of Boston kids.  Here are some of the things that our (mostly undergraduate) tutors and kids have accomplished over the past ten years.  Here are some of the reasons our programs have been so successful.   Many of you have played a role in their success to date.  Thank you for your leadership in supporting them now.

I am a kickball legend, at least in my own mind.  I remember (foggily, it was almost 40 years ago) running with a crew of four serious kickball-ers in first grade: Susan, Kristen, Jennifer, and myself.   I remember (less foggily) flashing some serious skills on the diamond two years ago.

That being said, I’ve yet to win a K4A trophy.  It’s about time!

Andy Stewart and the Test Takers (co-captained by Bryan Potts and Shane Magner)

10353637_10204989577244384_9103918179649976339_nBe prepared to choose between defeat and injuring a child.  Know that parents are watching.  Including me, you over-competitive jerk.

 

 

 

 

Kate Farrell and the Tobin Tigers
IMG_2074-e1443473642801My name is Kate and I am the captain for the Team Tobin Tigers this year!  This is my first year working for Tutors for All as a Program Manager and participating in Kickball for All.  I unfortunately do not have any sporty pictures of me to share, but hopefully some great ones will be captured on June 4th :)…but I would like to share what T4A means to me, as well as, the great American pastime of Kickball….I am a veteran ten year educator who has spent her career dedicated to serving students in under served communities.  I witnessed first hand the brutal struggle of students who could not pass the Math MCAS and yet had completed their graduation requirements, so therefore having to come back until they could pass the test.  When I applied for the position back in September I felt such gratitude that a program like this exists that supports teachers by helping students who might otherwise fall through the cracks in a large classroom, and prepare them to pass a test that could keep them from moving on to the next chapter of their life.  After running two semesters now of tutoring services for T4A it is truly a wonderful feeling to be helping students fill the holes of their knowledge, increase their confidence, and have the skills needed to pass!  I hope to be a part of the expansion of T4A to other Massachusetts cities where there are also students who are in the same battle!

As for kickball, my love for this great sport runs deep and back to my childhood.  The dusty little league baseball diamond behind my elementary school became the arena of many great moments of glory and victory.  No matter what skill level we had for some reason it seemed like everyone in my class could  meet on that field and play some kickball.  It would be competitive and yet fun.  There would be serious intentions and yet a lot of laughter.  And now as an adult playing kickball is like flying in a time machine back to my childhood, and I feel this may be true for many of us as this game seems to be the staple in the memories of many Americans and perhaps humans in generals.

Looking forward to playing with y’all on the 4th and hopefully holding one of those amazing trophies!  Go Team Tobin Tigers!

Richard Wilson and #dabnation

IScreenshot_20160524-182423 haven’t played kickball in 7 years,  but I have assembled the most passionate, motivated, inspiring, and charitable group of people. We can’t wait to get out there and show exactly that.

 

 

 

 

 

Kickball for All Spotlight: Andy Stewart

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 9.56.25 AMAndy Stewart was one of the original T4A staff members who helped create Kickball for All in 2011; he’s played in K4A tournaments ever since. In 2014 he became a team captain, and his team The Test Takers took home the winner’s trophy. Although he has since moved back to his home state in Michigan, Andy travels back to Boston every year to take part in our kickball tournament – the true definition of a “team player”! He shared with us the origins of K4A, advice for new players, and his predictions for this year’s winners.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan and moved to Boston with my wife in 2004. When we came to Boston, I found a job at Codman Academy as the Technology Director. I have always had an interest in technology – however, I knew this wasn’t something I wanted to do long term. I decided to make a career shift to Investment Management, so in 2009, I graduated from Boston College with a degree in Finance. I remained heavily involved with Codman Academy, which allowed me to meet Mark when he began to run tutorial at the school in 2008. He was aware of my new career path, and in 2010, I was hired as the Director of Finance and Operations for Tutors for All. Despite having since moved back to Michigan with my family, my dedication to Tutors for All has not diminished, and the organization will forever be an important part of my life.

Since you’ve been a part of K4A from the beginning, I have to ask- why kickball? Why not some other sport?

Kickball is a sport that most people know the general rules. Unlike baseball or football, it’s easy to explain and doesn’t require intense practicing and training. You have to admit, pitching a kickball is much easier than pitching a baseball. Because the sport is so inclusive, we thought it would be perfect for our event!

What is your favorite part about the event?

Each year when I know it’s almost time for Kickball for All, I immediately start looking forward to seeing Mark and the rest of my old co-workers. It’s always nice to catch up with them since I don’t get to see them often. I love watching the crowd of people grow each year as more people get involved with Tutors for All.

Is there anything you would recommend to people thinking about playing this year?

There are two things: the first thing I always tell people is that they shouldn’t worry too much about the mechanics of kickball. It doesn’t matter how well you play or if you’re inexperienced. The important thing is that you have fun, meet people, eat food and learn about the organization.

The second is that it’s always good to have different kinds of people at the event, especially former students who have experienced our programs first-hand. I like to encourage former and current students to attend the event, though many feel like they won’t be able to raise enough of money. In those situations, I tell students that any donation is helpful, and that the important thing is to have fun, meet people, and spread awareness about Tutors for All.

What has been the key to your success when it comes to raising so much money for this event?

It’s beneficial when you have co-captains who are actively helping you raise a team goal. In the past, Bryan Potts, Shane Magner and I co-captained a team called The Test Takers, and together we raised more money than we would have individually. When trying to get donations, I seek help from my parents, in-laws, relatives, friends and co-workers. I have built a strong networking platform where I’m able to send over 50 emails, and if half of those people donate then it’s a success. I’m often able to get large donations from my business contacts, and all of the small donations I receive from others start to add up.Then before you know it, I’ve reached my goal! I would rather have 1,000 people giving $10 than have 1 person giving $1,000. Being able to spread the word about Tutors for All is an essential part of Kickball for All.

Lastly, which team do you think is going to win Kickball for All 2016?

Well to be honest, last year I didn’t think we were going to win. It ultimately came down to the last five minutes when I was able to raise a couple of hundred dollars by asking people on the field to donate. This year, I know it’s going to come down to Mark and I (unless Bob Hornstein comes from left field). But my team will still win.

Tutors for All Receives NobleCause Grant for Volunteerism

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March 24rd, 2016, Boston – Tutors for All has received a $6,500 grant through NobleCause, a national grant competition mobilizing volunteers to address the greatest challenges facing their local communities. Each semester, Tutors for All recruits 30-40 volunteers to become tutors and program coordinators for various tutorial programs throughout Boston. As an incentive to recruit volunteers, the organization offers all volunteers free Charlie Cards to make their traveling easier as they commute to the different sites. With this grant, Tutors for All will be able to continue to offer their volunteers free Charlie Cards, a small token to thank them for their outstanding work.

“For ten years Tutors for All has relied on volunteers to provide crucial instruction of our kids,” said Mark Destler, Executive Director of Tutors for All. “The NobleCause grant allows us to give these volunteers the appreciation and support they deserve.”

$1,000,000 in total has been distributed to various schools and nonprofits through the NobleCause grant competition, with one hundred organizations awarded $6,500 grants. All grant recipients demonstrated a remarkable ability to raise community awareness, foster partnerships, and cultivate leaders who take action.

“We set out to encourage communities throughout the country to tell us their big, sustainable ideas to inspire quality volunteerism,” said Wesley Barnett, managing partner for TreeTop Commons and NobleHour. “By organizing volunteers to address local concerns, NobleCause award recipients are defining social responsibility right in their own communities.”

The NobleCause grant is made possible by the GiveWell Community Foundation and organized by NobleHour, a volunteer management tool that promotes a culture of civic engagement and charts meaningful acts of goodness. For more than a decade, NobleHour has been connecting and equipping thousands of schools, non-profit agencies, and organizations to shape well-rounded students and service leaders, build better communities, and measure their collective impact. To learn more, visit NobleHour.com.

Coordinator Spotlight: Sookyung Kim

2013-08-06_19.54.22-1Sookyung started working for Tutors for All over two years ago as a tutor at the MGH Youth Scholars program. She has always been dedicated to helping our students, first a volunteer tutor, then as a lead tutor last semester, and now as the MGH Program Coordinator. We talked with her to learn more about her background and what she’s taken away from her T4A experience.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am originally from South Korea, and came to the states after graduating from high school. Once I arrived I studied English at a language school in Boston for 9 months. Then, I continue studying at a local community college for a year and a half. After that, I  transferred to UMass Amherst to finish my undergraduate degree. When I’m not studying, I love to practice Kendo, a Japanese sword-fighting martial art.

2. How did you hear about Tutors for All?
After graduation, I got a job as a research technician at Mass General Hospital. I started looking for local volunteer opportunities around the hospital, and that’s when I heard about the MGH Youth Scholars program. I have always been interested in teaching so I decided to join T4A. I remember on my first day at the job, I showed up extremely over-dressed and in heels – I was so embarrassed!

3. What is the best part about working for Tutors for All?
The best part of my job is getting to know the students over the semester. MGH Youth Scholars program fosters a relationship with students over the course of a semester not only as a tutor to a student but also as a coach and scholar. It’s very rewarding when I know I’m able to support my students and guide them in the direction that I believe is best for them. Not only can you see how much they grow and develop stronger academic skills, but I see myself growing with the experience as well. For example, when two of my students Monica and Dorene found out they aced their final exam in spite of the struggles they had at the beginning of the semester, it not only strengthened their belief that we can make a change when we put in the effort, but also reminded me of how much I feel personally connected to the students, excited for them, and proud of their continual work. In addition, most of my students go out of their way to thank me for the academic help and support I provide them. For example, coaches and scholars know when the last day for us to be together as a part of Tutors for All at MGH program is, and Chang Liu came to our session to personally thank me even though he had other commitments for that day.

4. What plans do you have next?
I have worked for a while at a basic academic laboratory and now I am applying to MD/PhD programs, a training program for those interested in becoming a physician scientist. This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to do research, but work with patients as well. During the application process I was asked to list any meaningful activities I do, and T4A was the first thing that came to my mind!

5. How will you take what you have learned working for T4A into your future career?
When I’m doing research, I often find many mistakes in my experiments. These mistakes are always difficult to find, so you have to keep trying until you’re able to get some success. By working for T4A, I have gained so much positive energy from helping my students. That energy pushes me forward in my research and helps me stay positive. I could also see myself having the same dynamics I do now with my students as I will with my patients when I become a physician scientist, getting motivated as I witness positive changes I make in my patients and staying positive despite hurdles I am most likely confront during my research.

Tutors for All Announces New Partnership with Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club

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February 29, 2016, Boston – Tutors for All has announced a new partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston’s Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Club. Tutors for All will recruit and manage five tutors for the Club’s evening tutoring program for the spring academic semester, with oversight from their Education Director. The program will run from 5:30pm to 7:45pm on Thursday evenings at their Club in Dorchester, and will provide academic support to twelve Club members in the subjects of math, science, and English Language Arts (ELA).

“We are incredibly excited to announce this new partnership,” said Mark Destler, Executive Director of Tutors for All. “Ten years ago, we made a commitment to bring tutors to the students who need them the most, first in schools and eventually through working with community agencies. Given this Club’s long-standing history in the community, we know that our tutors will have a tremendous impact. ” The partnership is the fourth of its kind, following partnerships with Massachusetts General’s Center for Community Health Improvement, The YMCA of Greater Boston, and Squashbusters.

Since its founding in 1893, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB) has been helping young people, especially those who need us most, build strong character and realize their full potential as responsible citizens and leaders. BGCB does this by providing: a safe haven filled with hope and opportunity, ongoing relationships with caring adults, and life-enhancing programs in six core program areas. The organization serves more than 16,000 young people ages 6-18 in 11 Clubs, and through Camp Harbor View and YouthConnect. BGCB is an affiliate of Boys & Girls Clubs of America and The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. For more information, visit BGCB on the web at www.bgcb.org.

Meet Our Dedicated Tutor: Elsie Mayo

Elsie Mayo is a fourth year student in the 3+1 Economics and Public Policy program at Simmons College. Last year she received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics, and she will earn her Master’s degree in Public Policy this summer. As if she isn’t busy enough, Elsie has been a tutor for our programs over the past 4 years, and is now the lead tutor at two of our sites, Codman Middle School and Tobin. Elsie’s hard work and dedication to T4A is truly appreciated and we wanted to share her inspiring story.

Elsie (left) with her mom at Tobin

Elsie (left) with her mom at Tobin

1. Tell us about yourself: where are you from, what school do you go to, what do you like to do in your free time?
I live in Washington D.C, but currently I am in Boston working on getting my Master’s degree in Public Policy at Simmons College. I am involved in several extracurricular activities, including the Colleges of the Fenway Dance Project and the Black Student Organization at Simmons. In my free time I love to sing in the gospel choir here at Simmons and back home. I also enjoy watching Netflix and spending as much time with my mom as possible whenever she comes to Boston to visit.

2. What made you want to join Tutors for All and why have you kept returning throughout the years?
Growing up I was always good at helping others with math because I was able to understand concepts quickly and find better ways to teach those concepts to my peers. When I heard about Tutors for All, I thought it was a wonderful program because it gave students the individual attention they needed. This is something that can’t be accomplished in a classroom where students learn differently. I knew this program would be the perfect fit for me and once I started I immediately fell in love.

3. What is the most rewarding part about your job?
Last year I tutored a student at Codman Academy, and earlier this year I saw that same student volunteer to be a tutor for the younger students at Codman Middle School. She had mastered her mathematical skills so much so that she felt confident enough to become a tutor. Just being able to build connections with the students and watch them grow throughout the semester is by far the most rewarding part about my job.

4. What’s your favorite memory while working with Tutors for All?
Our first week back after winter break, I went to Codman Middle School for a tutoring session. Many of the students had gone on a field trip that day so I was expecting them to be drained after a long day and not enthusiastic about tutorial. When they finally arrived for session, all I saw were smiles. The students were go glad to see us tutors and eager to start the semester. This was just a small reminder of why I always decide to come back each year.

5. What are your future career goals?
With my degrees I intend to work with youth in public schools. More specifically, I want to work in direct services and make sure students have all the resources they need to get into college academically prepared, to be successful in college, and to graduate.

6. What have you learned through working for Tutors for All? How will you take what you have learned and use it in your career?
Last year I had a conversation with one of my students who expressed to me that he wouldn’t get accepted into college because he was simply an African-American kid from a low-income family. Having come from the same background, I felt it was my obligation to assure him that if he works hard, he too can go to college and advance in his career despite all odds. This is one of the many reasons I have chosen the career path I intend to take.

7. Do you have any advice for current and future tutors?
Have fun and enjoy it, because if you enjoy it then your students will enjoy it as well. Be patient, be fair, be kind, and make the experience a good one for you and the students.

Element #7 of Highly Effective Tutorial: Leveraged Subsidies for Service (Part One)

You’ve followed our series this far, so you know what it takes to run a highly effective tutorial program. High-quality oversight, professionalized tutors, and balanced collaboration and autonomy, to name a few factors. You’re ready to go. There’s just one question, however. What’s all this going to cost?

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Well I’m not going to lie to you — individualized instruction changes lives, but it doesn’t come cheaply.  There’s a reason why the highest quality Tutoring and Test Prep orgs (shout out to local start-up Signet Education here, one of the best) can charge upwards of $100 an hour and still have students waiting in line for their services.

That being said, if you’re going to truly have Tutors for All (not some), you have to take advantage of each and every available economy at your disposal.  That means mastering the bewildering landscape of subsidies for service and then leveraging the heck out of them.  Below are a few sources for highly subsidized (or free!) tutors that you should have available..  Check back in a few days for some tips on how to make each work for you.

College and Graduate Students

  • Federal Work-Study
  • Service-Learning programs, especially ones that are tied to scholarships
  • Education, Sociology, Public Policy Classes and Departments
  • Fraternities and Sororities, many of which have service requirements

Recent College Graduates

  • Stipend for service “Corps” programs
  • Volunteer placement organizations such as Boston Cares
  • Networking events by groups such as Socializing for Justice

Professionals, retirees and/or mid-career changers

  • Partnership with local retirement community
  • Partnership with local churches
  • Partnership with local service organizations (Kiwanis, Elks, etc)