Cultivating future genius

College partners with Garden City Middle School to prepare students for success

By Kenneth Porter
Campus Life Editor

The United States is caught in an academic crisis.

IMG_1541According to a 2012 survey issued by the International Student Assessment Programme, American teenagers have experienced declining scores in math, reading and science, while Asian nations such as China and Singapore’s scores have soared. Our 15 years-olds are only rated “average” or “below average” in these ever-important subjects, and are hitting a decline that shows no sign of leveling out.

There is no question that the United States must do something to right our educational system and Garden City Middle School is moving towards a solution. Garden City is trying a new way to improve the test scores of their students by starting the Math and English/Language Arts (ELA) workshops; after-school educational programs held weeknights on Schoolcraft’s Radcliff Campus that work on math and language arts topics with seventh grade students.

The program is designed to give struggling students the extra help that they need in an individual-based, hands-on environment. Programs such as these are poised to help the United States climb back to the top of the educational rankings, one school at a time.

“It all started when we received a call from Dr. Bonnie Heckard [Schoolcraft College Associate Dean], two years ago,” said Brian Sumner, Garden City Middle School Principal. “Dr. Heckard offered to provide resources to tutor a few of our students. She wanted to help supplement the teaching that was done in class and provide additional academic support for our seventh graders. We excitedly agreed.”

The mathematics portion of the tutoring program was an instant success. Schoolcraft invited middle school students to the Radcliff campus to learn from volunteer tutors, and the results were impressive. Garden City saw quick, massive growth on localized mathematics assessment tests, and students were able to boost their grades through the combined efforts of their daytime teachers and nighttime tutors. The courses were so successful that in late 2013, Heckard and Sumner decided that the best thing to do was to expand the after-school program.

IMG_1598“Earlier this year, Dr. Heckard contacted us again and we decided to create an ELA program in conjunction with the math program,” Sumner continued. “We target a group of twenty students for both the Math and Language Arts Programs, and so far they’re both a success.”

The combined Math and English program has recently entered its fourth week of operation, and early signs paint the program as being highly effective. Today, students study literature such as Sandra Cisneros’s classic “The House on Mango Street,” learn how to craft solid argumentative writing, and examine figurative language, gaining the base-level skills they will need throughout their academic careers and in the real world. Students also brush up on their algebra skills, gaining the one-on-one attention from instructors that can be difficult to provide during regular class time.

“The program has absolutely had an impact on our students,” says Sumner. “I’ve had teachers and parents comment that students that are in this program are looking at math problems in different, creative ways and that’s always a good thing. I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback.”

Grades at Garden City are on the rise, and enthusiasm surrounding the Math and ELA programs is high.

“Schools need this sort of support,” said Brianne Radke, instructor in the ELA program and former Schoolcraft College student. “There are different skill levels and learning styles in every classroom, and programs such as these help make sure that every student gets the individualized help they need.”

IMG_1614At the end of the school year, the program’s students will receive certificates signifying completion of the course, and they look forward to achieving their individual academic goals.

“All of our students are brilliant,” Radke continues. “We have a lot of creative minds and analytical thinkers. I really appreciate the dedication of students that are willing to come over to Schoolcraft for 90 minutes of extra class time. The program is definitely a success, and I’m excited for the future.”

The program presents a great opportunity for students and the community says Sumner. “I can’t say how appreciative we are of the investment that has been made by Schoolcraft. It has been a huge success so far,” he said.