Does volunteering one hour a week make sense?

Did we all see Ambassador Karen’s Hughes’ letter to the editor in Tuesday’s Austin American Statesman? Find it here: http://www.statesman.com/opinion/hughes-can-you-spare-an-hour-a-week-942602.html

Hughes, who has been a champion of Austin Partners in Education for several years, urged the community to give one hour of their week to children in Austin classrooms. She leads the charge for The  41st Hour Campaign, designed to ask State employees who serve us all 40 hours a week to add one more hour of service as a volunteer in the classroom.

Here at the Austin Partners in Education office, we are all busy on the phone and email, and in face-to-face meetings, trying to garner support from the community so we can collectively place 850 volunteers into AISD in the next couple of weeks as Classroom Coaches. When we succeed these coaches can, as Ms. Hughes points out, make that life changing difference in a young person’s life. We’re grateful to Ms. Hughes for her vocal and loyal support of what we do.

People have different motivations for giving time or money to causes in their community. Some do it because it’s a family tradition. Others do it because it feels good, or is fun. Still others do it because it is good business, or part of their faith and spiritual practice. Some do it because it makes sense. I want to speak to this last group for a moment. We know it feels good to volunteer, but why does Classroom Coaching make sense?

We recruit, train and place volunteers in the classrooms because it works to help students succeed at key points critical to their academic success.

That matters in second grade more than you might realize. According to the National Research Council, a person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by 3rd grade is unlikely to graduate from high school. Look around the children you know in 2nd and 3rd grade. Should their fate be sealed that early in their lives? We can change that. The problem is 74% of the children who perform poorly in reading in third grade continue to read poorly into high school.[i] So we have to get in front of that and boost their skills in 2nd grade.

The Classroom Coaching model of small interactive groups of 2 -3 students per coach gives every child in the class a chance to ask questions, listen, and learn, as an individual. It also allows them to see their volunteer’s love of reading and the relevance to it in real world terms. As one our volunteers Sherry Washington told her students, “If you can read, you do anything.” To a child in poverty (60% of the students enrolled in AISD are economically disadvantaged) that’s a promise we need to keep.

We coach 8th grade math in addition to 2nd and 6th grade reading. Algebra is the subject students in U.S. public schools fail most often.[ii] Like reading skills in 2nd and 3rd grade, Algebra is a gatekeeper that broadens or limits future opportunities for many students. According to the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS), 83% of the students who are successful in Algebra and Geometry go on to college. Sadly, students who failed Algebra were four times more likely to drop out of high school than those who passed the course. We can do something about that.

Classroom Coaching evaluations and assessments show an increase in student learning outcomes including increased scores on State-mandated tests. One hour a week of your time CAN make a difference in whether a student stays in school. Join city and state employees, business people, college students and many of your neighbors. Say yes to Classroom Coaching.

Register at www.ClassroomCoaching.org. It just makes sense.


[i] Fletch, J.M. & Lyon, G.R. (1998). Reading: A research-based approach.

[ii] Jacobson, Katrine Gram. (1999). Central Tensions, A Critical Framework for Examining High School Mathematics and Mathematics Education.

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About Austin Partners in Education

Austin Partners in Education is a non-profit organization that provides innovative programs to improve student academic performance.

2 responses to “Does volunteering one hour a week make sense?”

  1. Quincy says :

    One hour is better than NO hours. Kids need our time to show that we care.

    • Austin Partners in Education says :

      Thanks Quincy! It’s nice to know we live in a city where more than 800 people have now signed up to coach this year. We just need about 34 more coaches to fill our classes. Our most urgent need is 2nd grade Reading in Spanish and 8th grade Math. We also have several hundred mentors. Thank you Austin!

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