Hannah Chaney, a sophomore elementary education major at Francis Marion University, is participating in a new partnership between Wilson High School and FMU’s School of Education in which she and 13 others tutor high schoolers who are struggling to pass South Carolina’s standard High School Assessment Program (HSAP) test, which is required for graduation.
FMU officials named the program Helping Students Achieve Proficiency (HSAP), a play on the acronym for the test it’s designed to help students pass.
Chaney says the students’ gradual improvement is what makes the experience so rewarding.
“When they (students) go from not being able to form a paragraph and not really wanting to be here to writing coherent essays and enjoying their time here, it is exciting for us,” says Chaney.
Ashley Parks, a junior at FMU who tutors at Wilson High School, has enjoyed tutoring since she was in high school. She says that her interaction with the students, whether it be factoring trinomials or writing algebraic equations, is what keeps her coming back each day.
“Working with students has always been my passion,” says Parks. “This age group (high school) is especially easy to work with because they realize the importance of what they are learning.”
Dr. Erik Lowry, associate professor of education and administrator of the grant provided through FMU’s Ready to Experience Applied Learning (R.E.A.L.) program to fund the endeavor, says FMU President Dr. Fred Carter, Dr. Ron Faulkenberry, the recently retired dean of the School of Education and Eric Robinson, principal of Wilson High School, are responsible for the idea, identifying the benefit both schools would receive from the collaboration.
“We now have 13 tutors that go to Wilson and help students in Math and English, many of whom are struggling with passing the HSAP exam or perhaps the end of course exam in algebra,” says Lowry. “Our students in turn have an opportunity to be involved with both field-based teaching and community service.”
The FMU student tutors were screened carefully, completing applications and meeting with both Lowry and Patrice Holmes, Wilson’s assistant principal. They were also asked to provide references and submit to a background screening.
Each FMU student receives up to a $500 stipend per semester of service. Participation involves tutoring high school students for up to three days per week for several weeks during each semester. The sessions are for approximately one hour, but some tutors spend 2 to 3 hours a day at the school.
Since the fall of 2013, the tutors have been in the school making a difference.
“It is great to see high school students interacting with college students,” says Lowry. “We want to help ensure that the high school students see that a college education is something they can and want to attain. We see our students as being role models toward that goal.”
In addition, Lowry says the progress of the FMU Tutors is also monitored.
“This project provides our students with opportunities for meaningful, high-level engagement with the curriculum,” says Lowry. “As a part of that process, we plan to gather test scores and anecdotal data that will be analyzed upon completion of our first year to see how students are performing and responding to the assistance provided. While the data collection is not complete, the feedback from students and staff has been very positive.”
FMU’s R.E.A.L. program seeks to add practice components to theory learned in the classroom and lead to more complete learning that enhances traditionally acquired knowledge.