“The past 11 months have been one long test of wills for educators and students, and student learning has suffered,” says LaKricia Cox, Little Bit Director of Programs. “It’s already an uphill climb for many of our students, and this year has added new obstacles to overcome. We’ve come to realize that to serve the whole child, we have to not only focus on removing barriers to learning but on providing direct academic supports, and so we’ve worked hard to really ramp up our tutoring program this year.”
Cox says the program began as a pilot in 2019 at Lemasters Elementary, when an overwhelmed Phyllis Katz, Reading Specialist, reached out to Little Bit for help. “She simply couldn’t keep up with all of the students that needed additional support with reading on grade level and knew that we had a base of volunteers that may have the time to assist,” says Cox.
Little Bit volunteers were recruited for tutoring during summer school, which then carried over into the fall semester. For a half-hour each week, tutors worked one-on-one with students on reading together, recognizing sight words, writing down words they didn’t know, literacy games, completing worksheets designed by Cox, and other strategies. When teachers tested the students’ progress, they found real growth, says Cox.
“We knew we had identified a gap where we could have a tangible effect and decided to develop it into a formal tutoring program offered to each of our elementary schools,” she says. It has since expanded to provide individualized tutoring in math skills and concepts in addition to reading, reaching about 85 students in nine schools this semester. More than 50 tutors have signed on from among Little Bit volunteers and through a partnership with Saint Louis University’s Magis program and Overground Railroad student-led organization. The DreamBox digital math program also is provided to students and tutors to supplement their activities with interactive lessons.
For the time being, tutoring has moved to virtual platforms until COVID restrictions are lifted, but that hasn’t dampened the experience of student or tutor in the case of Megan Spasenoski. The junior in SLU’s College of Public Health and Social Justice has been tutoring elementary students for the past four years. “I know this year has been rough trying to connect students with tutors, but my student ShiAnne and I had a great experience,” says Spasenoski. “She was the most enthusiastic and joyful student I have ever worked with, and even in our limited time, she made great progress with multiplying and dividing numbers. Thank you to Little Bit for not giving up on making it work.”
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