Local Program Working to Close Achievement Gap

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COLUMBIA -Fairview Elementary is attempting to help students struggling in class with a program that brings MU students to the elementary school for tutoring during the school day. The Achieve Program was created to help close the achievement gap between students who learn at different paces and have limited opportunities for tutoring outside of school.

An achievement gap is a measure between different classes and races and how they do on different standardized tests. Missouri has the sixth largest achievement gap in the country for math among 4th grade students.

"The achievement gap lives in the areas where there are large discrepancies between incomes and abilities of the students," said Dr. Stephen Whitney, founder of the Achieve Program.

The Achieve Program was implemented at Fairview Elementary during the 2011-2012 school year. The program pairs students from the College of Education at the University of Missouri with a Fairview Elementary student for tutoring throughout the year. The tutor continues to work with the same one or two students twice a week for the entire school year.

"They're getting a lot of that one-on-one time," said Diana DeMoss, principal at Fairview Elementary. "It's good for the MU student because they can see the growth and really find out if they want to work with elementary students, it's good for our kids because it just gives them a bond with someone and somebody that's helping them get a little more individualized instruction in something they need that they need some more practice on."

Although, DeMoss said that there have been improvements in students' grades, Sharon Jacoby, a 5th grade teacher at Fairview Elementary, said a lack of space in the classrooms can make it a little difficult to make room for the tutors during class time. In order to avoid disrupting classes, tutors have to take the students they're working with out of the classroom and into the hallway.

Many of the students benefitting from the Achieve Program form a strong bond with their tutor. Alaysha Holmes, a 5th grade student, said she was nervous when her tutor went on winter break because she was afraid she wasn't coming back.

"She helps me understand it more than in class," said Holmes. "[The Achieve Program] will help you with things you need to study more."

The Achieve Program plans to expand to more elementary schools in the Columbia area next fall. Whitney said the program will make up for the extra students that need tutoring by accepting more MU students as tutors.