by Ann Fowler
Anne Herman, Development Coordinator for Austin Partners in Education (APIE), told the Gazette that math coaches are needed for Oak Hill’s Covington Middle School. According to Herman, through math classroom coaching, 8th grade students gain confidence in math when small groups of students are paired with community volunteers.
Herman said, “Volunteers, also known as Coaches, tutor the same group of students once a week—during their regular math class—throughout the school year. This allows Coaches to form a positive relationship with their students, and the students really look forward to seeing them each week.”
Since 2004, the Austin Partners in Education has connected the community and the classroom by partnering with the Austin Independent School District (AISD) and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.
Math Classroom Coaching at Covington is on Tuesdays at the following times:
- 8:55 – 9:40 a.m. (2 classes)
- 10:25 – 11:10 a.m.
- 11:15 a.m. – 12 noon (2 classes)
Before the coaching starts, volunteers take online training and meet with an APIE coordinator to learn about the curriculum and how the program works week to week. Herman said, “Throughout the year, APIE coordinators support volunteers in the classroom, provide the lessons at least 24 hours before the class meets, and answer questions and concerns along the way.”
Oak Hill resident Robert Holder has been an APIE coach in the past. When he heard about Covington’s need, he was happy to volunteer. He told the Gazette, “Coaching was a rewarding and challenging experience for me. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping a kid who is eager to learn. It is also good to experience the challenges teachers face every day.”
Covington Principal Shannon Sellstrom told the Gazette that she has experience with APIE coaching programs. Although APIE can provide coaches for reading and math, she said Covington only participates in the Math Classroom Coach program.
Sellstrom said, “The Coaches are of tremendous value to our students, teachers and instructional program. The unique perspective, experience, relationships and voice that the Coaches bring to our learning community provide motivation and connectivity unlike anything that we can duplicate.”
The Covington principal added that the program provides a different way to work with students, which the teachers can then build upon. She said, “It shows the students that their learning matters, and that there are people who care about their success in our community.”
“I can speak to the value of this contribution from many years of experience,” said Sellstrom, “including my prior campus before Covington, where the Reading Classroom Coach program was a huge benefit for many years. Whenever a school can bring the community in as a part of the instructional program, students’ day-to-day learning and overall achievement are enriched and enhanced.”
Covington is the only middle school in Oak Hill that uses APIE coaches.
APIE lists the AISD elementary schools with the most needs as: Allison, Blanton, Brooke, Brown, Dawson, Oak Springs Odom, Pecan Springs, Sanchez, Sims, St. Elmo, Walnut Creek and Wooten.
The middle schools using APIE resources are: Burnet, Covington, Dobie, Martin, Mendez and Webb. The APIE high schools include Akins, Anderson, Austin, Crockett, Eastside, LBJ, Lanier, McCallum, Reagan and Travis.
For more information on APIE, see http://www.austinpartners.org/.
For information on volunteering, see https://austinpartners.secure.force.com/findOpportunities.
Many local schools depend on fundraisers, other assistance
Anne Herman, Development Coordinator for Austin Partners in Education (APIE), said not all schools participate in APIE coaching programs. (See accompanying story about math coaches for Covington Middle School.) She said the organization’s focus is on Title I schools that have high populations of low-income students.
Herman said, “Principals request our coaching services through an application process. Then we vet the schools through our Board of Directors and the superintendent, who also sits on our Board. Finally, the district recommends which schools we should serve based on school need and existing relationships.”
Dr. Sherry Lepine, Interim Principal of the Clint Small Middle School, told the Gazette, “We do not have any APIE Coaches. Typically, schools that have a high percentage of students on free and reduced price meals get Title 1 funds and services, such as APIE Coaches, Communities in Schools, APIE Mentors, etc.”
Dr. Lepine added, “While I have students who qualify for the National School Meal program (about 33 percent or 1 in 3 students), campuses that automatically receive outside services have 70 percent or more of the student population living in poverty. Helping organizations tend to focus on those campuses.”
Dr. Lepine said Small Middle School and campuses like it have fundraisers to supplement the students who are economically disadvantaged. She said they write grant requests, but the schools chosen for such grants are often geared toward campuses with higher percentages of students considered economically disadvantaged. She said, “It is an issue for us, and we have to do without and rely on donations and fundraising to support our students in need.”
Many Oak Hill schools already have had fundraisers early in the school year, such as Boone Elementary and Small and Gorzycki middle schools, while Clayton and Kiker elementary schools have fundraisers scheduled for the spring. The Patton Elementary Fall Carnival is October 17 from 2 to 6 p.m.: http://www.pattonpta.org/2015carnival.
Community members can help local schools by participating in these fundraisers. Most schools have websites and Facebook pages with information on campus events, or post such information around the school.
Still other schools get creative for resources. Crockett High School is seeking coaches and mentors for an Entrepreneurship program. The school hopes small business owners will assist students with start-up businesses. See http://tinyurl.com/nsk3jf5.