The weather is getting cooler and soon we’ll be kicking off the holiday season. We invite you to take a moment for a quick slice of APIE before you fill up on holiday treats next week! We are thankful for the continued support from our volunteers, donors, and friends. Keep reading for APIE updates, including the latest statistics from our annual program evaluation and how you can use your Target shopping to support Austin ISD students!
For the 2019-20 school year, the MCC program is working with 6th and 7th graders at six middle schools, including Burnet, Covington, Dobie, Martin, Sadler Means YWLA, and Webb. We currently have almost 200 volunteers serving 669 Austin ISD students! We’re always looking for more volunteers, especially at the start of the new semester in January. To register to be a Math Classroom Coach, visit our website. For more information, email Ashley Yeaman at email@example.com.
This year, APIE’s College Readiness program added Burnet Middle School to our roster, and we’re now serving students at 11 middle and high schools across the district. We have already worked with nearly 200 8th, 9th, and 10th graders, and we’re excited to support more students looking to participate in Early College High School and Career Launch/P-TECH programs. By participating in these programs, our students will have the opportunity to earn an Associate’s degree and industry certifications by the time they graduate high school!
We currently have more than 300 mentors serving students across Austin ISD, and we’re always working to increase that number—especially at the middle and high school levels. We have a high need for mentors at the following schools: Navarro and Northeast Early College high schools; Burnet, Mendez, and Lively middle schools; and Cowan, Pease, Metz, Sims, Norman, and Mills elementary schools. To register to be a mentor, visit our website. For more information, email Ashley Yeaman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The GEAR UP Program is in its third year, and our students are now 8th graders! We are serving the class of 2024 at 11 middle schools, including Bedichek, Burnet, Covington, Dobie, Lively, Gus Garcia YMLA, Martin, Mendez, Paredes, Sadler Means YWLA, and Webb. This year we have 21 tutors working across the GEAR UP campuses. There are more than 130 unique classes with a GEAR UP tutor. We look forward to increasing the support both teachers and students are receiving in class and small group settings, along with providing additional support at lunch and after school.
Back-To-School Happy Hour
Despite the dreary weather, we had a great turnout at our Back-To-School Happy Hour at Contigo on October 29, which was sponsored by Bumble Bizz! We hold appreciation events like these to recognize all of our incredible volunteers. Our work wouldn’t be possible without you! If you missed this event, stay tuned to your email and our social media accounts for updates on the next one.
Volunteer Spotlight | Drew Dubcak
Drew began working with her mentee, Tabitha, six years ago as a 6th grader. This year, Tabitha is a junior, beginning to plan for what comes next after graduation. In this Q&A, Drew shares more about her mentoring experience and why people shouldn’t be hesitant to get involved.
Q: Who or what inspired you to start mentoring?
A: My dad has mentored for ten years and still mentors now. I thought that it would be really awesome to do that myself. Since I had time in college, I signed up and got partnered with Tabitha. I met her when she was 12, and she turns 18 in December.
Q: How has your experience mentoring been generally? How has it changed over the years?
A: It’s been a wonderful experience. Working with Tabitha has shown me that you don’t have to put in hours upon hours to see a great change. When I first met her, she didn’t really trust me. But since I’ve been around for so long, when I show up I get this big hug. It’s been great to see her grow up. The funny thing is that Tabitha did not want to grow up. So it’s been awesome to kind of work with her and be with her along the way. She was not happy to go to middle school, and then later she didn’t want to go to high school. I feel like being there to support her was a really good experience overall.
Q: What do you think are some of the benefits of working with the same mentee on a more long-term basis?
A: I think with mentoring, consistency is key. You have to be someone who sticks around and stays. I feel that the benefit of that is that you’re seeing the works of your labor materialize.
Q: Over the years working with Tabitha, are there any stories that stand out to you?
A: Well, I know the family and I know her mom now. It’s a trusting relationship. And so last year I took her and her sister to the Trail of Lights. They’ve lived in the Austin area their entire lives, but I got to go with them to do that for their first time. It was just the most exciting thing seeing them. They were 16 and 17 years old, and they were jumping around like kids seeing all these lights. It was beautiful.
Q: Does Tabitha have an idea of what she might like to do after she graduates high school?
A: We’re in the workings right now. We’re working on getting her volunteer experience and getting her ready to go to college. She loves history and astronomy, so if Tabitha had it her way, she would be a history and astronomy professor at a college somewhere.
Q: Why should someone volunteer to mentor?
A: It’s a blessing to get outside of yourself. I mean, it doesn’t take a lot of time to go and do this. I think a lot of people get stuck in the me, me, me. Being able to work with Tabitha—yes, I’ve helped her, but I’ve also helped myself because she’s taught me a multitude of life lessons, including don’t take things so seriously. She often asks me “Why are you on your phone al the time?” That’s my favorite question from her. “Why does it matter?” She’ll tell it like it is. You learn a lot from your mentee, and it’s more of a privilege to be in their lives than it is for you to be in theirs.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who was hesitant to mentor?
A: I think there might be hesitations around not knowing how to handle harder conversations, but there’s a lot of support with APIE. If I had needed it, I could have reached out. I got emails about trainings. I could reach out to Dawn [Lewis, APIE’s school connections manager] if I needed help. And support staff is key. There’s a lot of support, so you’re never alone. And if you don’t fit with a child, there is probably another child that you could work with as well.
Q: What lasting impact do you hope to have on Tabitha?
A: I hope that she grows up to be that strong, independent lady that I know she is on the inside. I want her to know that she can do whatever she wants on her own. We’ve been kind of instilling that she can do things on her own. She can be that awesome history and astronomer professor that she wants to be and go to college. She can travel on her own. She can do things on her own. She doesn’t have to have someone behind her. She doesn’t have to be scared. Hopefully she’ll grow up to be an independent lady that goes for what she wants.
Support APIE’s Marathon Team
APIE is one of very few nonprofits chosen as an official charity of the Austin Marathon and last year we raised over $30,000! Our 2020 goal of $30,000 can provide tutoring for 60 math students, mentoring for 120 students, or college readiness support for 30 students. This campaign is APIE’s major annual fundraiser and you can help by:
- Running: If you’re a runner and running the Austin Marathon, ½ Marathon, or 5K, please consider leveraging your athleticism and fundraise for APIE in support of your run! Visit our GoFundMe page here and click on “Run for Charity.”
- Joining Our Team: Not a runner? No problem! You can still join the team to fundraise and share APIE’s story with friends and family (there will be prizes involved!). We challenge you to post or send out just one email and see the generosity of your network. Visit our GoFundMe page here and click on “Run for Charity.” (This will make you a part of our team and able to fundraise, but you don’t have to run in the marathon.)
- Donating: If neither of the above options work for you, you can donate in honor of the students you show up for each week. You understand that APIE’s programs change lives, that APIE is a nonprofit, and that we can’t do this without community support. Visit our GoFundMe page here and click on “Support a Charity,” then select “Austin Partners in Education.”
If you have any questions, please email Rachel Thomson at email@example.com.
Your Target shopping can help support APIE
We are honored and excited to announce that we have been chosen to participate in a special charitable giving campaign, sponsored and funded by Target. And you have the chance to help direct a portion of Target’s donation to us! A vote is earned each time you shop at Target, online and in store. Now through January 5, vote for us through the Target Circle program to help determine how Target’s donation will be divvied up. Click here to learn more about Target Circle.
Annual Evaluation Report, 2018-2019
We’re proud to share some of the findings from our Annual Evaluation Report! Last year, our Math Classroom Coaching program worked with middle school students. The 582 8th graders that participated in the program had significantly higher academic outcomes than a matched comparison group. In 2019, 79% of APIE 8th grade math students met the STAAR passing standard, compared with 61 % of the comparison group.
APIE’s College Readiness program supported 583 students in 8th through 12th grades. The 254 seniors who participated in the program performed better on the state’s college readiness assessment, the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, compared to a matched comparison group and district seniors. Fifty percent of APIE participants met college readiness criteria on both subjects on the assessment, followed by 21% of the matched comparison group.
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What scared you when you were a kid?
Maybe you were afraid of the dark or the monster potentially lurking under your bed. Or maybe you saw a horror movie that made you terrified of clowns, dolls, or monsters.
But childhood fears can also be less sinister. Maybe your anxiety creeped in whenever you had to give a presentation in front of your peers, take a test, or work out challenging math problems that you could never seem to get right.
Someone experiencing math anxiety does not necessarily lack the ability in mathematics, but they are unable to perform at their full potential because their fear impacts their ability to succeed. Studies suggest that highly anxious math students will avoid situations in which they will have to complete mathematical calculations. Unfortunately, math avoidance leads to less competency, exposure, and math practice, which only increases students’ anxiety—leaving students unprepared to achieve.
We see the lasting impacts of this fear firsthand when recruiting for our Math Classroom Coaching (MCC) program. People’s demeanor often changes with just the mention of the “m” word. We hear things like: “I’m not good at math. I’m just not a math person. I couldn’t possibly tutor students.”
But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Here are three reasons why you can still help, even if you’re scared of math.
- You’ll always have support from the classroom teacher and one of our MCC coordinators. Our MCC program works with sixth and seventh graders, which means you won’t need to help students solve complex equations. You’ll receive the lessons in advance, so you’ll have time to refresh yourself on the concepts beforehand. If there’s ever anything you’re unsure about, the teacher and one of our MCC coordinators are on hand to help.
- You can model good behavior when things get tough. MCC works to increase students’ enjoyment of math and decrease their fear. Often students shut down when something gets too challenging. Having some fear of math means you can relate to students who freeze when they can’t quickly figure out the answer. You can model good behavior—showing that it’s okay to be unsure, ask questions, and even get things wrong sometimes. When students recognize that there’s nothing wrong with not having all the answers and making mistakes, they’re more open to trying—and that practice helps them learn to succeed.
- Math is just part of the equation. Our primary goal of MCC is to raise students’ confidence in their math abilities. Volunteers like you help student’s better understand math, but also provide individualized feedback that students can depend on this week. Math classroom coaches focus both on reinforcing math concepts and forming a positive connection with students. We want students to know that members of the community genuinely care about them and their success.
There’s a lot of things to be afraid of, but math doesn’t have to be one of them. Join us in helping students become less fearful of math—you might lose some of your own math anxiety in the process!
To learn more about our Math Classroom Coaching program and to sign up to volunteer, visit https://austinpartners.org/classroom-coaching. We have more volunteer opportunities open in the spring semester, so stay tuned to our website if we currently don’t have openings that work with your schedule.
Post by: Ashley Yeaman, Communications & Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator, Austin Partners in Education
Your 6th grade Reading Classroom Coaching coordinators, Chris and Hannah, put together a great handout for the April volunteer and mentor coffee talk. Check it out below!
Meet them at their level – put yourself in their shoes
- Get to know their interests and hobbies. Some students have a different background than yours; respecting it is key. Crossing cultural barriers takes effort, but if you want to bridge distances it is important to remain patient and keep an open mind.
- Don’t take student behavior personally
- Be aware of your reaction/response to the students
Don’t be afraid to laugh and admit mistakes—have a sense of humor!
- Model that it’s ok to make mistakes
- Utilize your sense of humor
- Remember that to get respect, you have to give it
- Building trust takes time and patience
- Try to listen more than you talk
- Accept that a student’s feelings are valid
- It is much harder to relate to your students if you miss multiple classes
- Be consistent week to week with group guidelines for behavior
- Being inconsistent will cause you to lose students’ respect and attention
We hope you’ll join APIE staff, your teachers, and fellow volunteers and mentors for the end-of-year happy hour TODAY at Contigo Austin!
Andrea Martin started volunteering with APIE in the fall of 2013. As a new addition to APIE, she has already had a huge impact on her students. Andrea enjoys dedicating her time as a classroom coach helping improve the reading skills of middle school students in Austin.
APIE: What sparked your interest in volunteering with APIE?
AM: I used to teach middle school reading and missed working with middle school kids and heard about APIE through the Teach For America Alumni network here in Austin. APIE gives me the opportunity to support the teachers and administrators who are working hard every day to create an environment for excellent education in AISD.
APIE: What is something unique about APIE that stands it apart from other organizations?
AM: I feel like the volunteers are well-trained for what we are doing and we receive a lot of support. It’s also great consistency that for the most part we spend an hour every school week with the same kids. With this, we really get to see our kids through the course of the year.
APIE: You are currently working with 6th graders. What do you like about that age group?
AM: Middle school is a really tough time for everyone and if I, as a volunteer, can make the day a little easier, I want to be able to do that for my students.
APIE: What do you do for a living?
AM: I currently work in consulting for non-profits. Every day I am required to spend at least some time proofreading so I must be a careful and thorough reader for my work. For this reason, I am able to give my students clear examples of the importance of slowing down and paying close attention to what they are reading.
APIE: You have a Bachelors degree in English and Government and a Masters in Secondary Education.
AM: I point to my English degree with my students to tell them how important reading is to me. I hope they’ll learn to enjoy it and find it important in their own lives as well.
APIE: This is your first year as a volunteer. What has been the best part of the experience so far?
AM: As a citizen of Austin, I enjoy being able to learn and be a part of our city schools in at least this small way. It’s exciting to see the students learn something new or figure something out for themselves. We also have fun discussions during and after reading and it’s great to see them engage in our stories!
APIE: You seem to be making a lot of progress in the short amount of time you have volunteered.
AM: For me it’s valuable to be back in a classroom and having even a small opportunity to help my students grow as readers. I’ve greatly enjoyed working with my students. I love learning about them and their interests and also watching them have small successes in the classroom.
APIE: Have you faced any challenges as a volunteer?
AM: My biggest challenge has been with their attendance. It’s hard to see my students miss class, especially when I know they’re both already below grade-level readers.
APIE: What are some ways you feel volunteers can help with student attendance?
AM: Get to know your students and take an interest in their lives. Treat them like they’re adults and find ways to relate what they’re reading and learning about to their own lives.
APIE: APIE focuses on having small-group interactions between the volunteers and the students. Do you believe the students benefit from a personal learning environment?
AM: I’m so glad that I can give my students a little one-on-one time for reading practice. I know it’s valuable for them to be able to read aloud in such a low-pressure environment. As a volunteer, it is also great to be able to support the excellent work that tireless teachers like Mrs. Spear are doing every day with our students.
APIE: If you could tell your students one thing, what would it be?
AM: I’d just encourage them to find books and reading materials that interest them and read to them every day. That’s the only way I know they will become more successful readers and learners.
APIE: What do you hope APIE can achieve in the future?
AM: I hope APIE can continue to give more students the opportunities for classroom coaching sessions. I’m so glad programs like APIE exist to bring community members into our city’s schools and hope that even more members of the community will get involved with the program so they can have a better idea of the great work that is going on in our classrooms.
Nick Bradley is an Aerospace Engineering Doctoral student at UT Austin. During his three years volunteering with APIE, he has been an 8th grade Math Coach for nine students and is currently a Classroom Coach at Webb Middle School.
While looking for ways to positively engage with the Austin community, Nick Bradley found an Austin Partners In Education posting for math coaches in the service announcements at his church. “Math coaching sounded like just the right fit,” Bradley says.
In the final year of his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering, Bradley is a dedicated individual who believes that good comprehension and problem-solving skills are the keys to pursuing higher education. For this reason, Bradley has been an APIE volunteer for three years and has worked with nine students all over Austin, encouraging them to work hard every day.
Bradley believes that to be a classroom coach, one must be dedicated to seeing real change and understanding occur in students’ academic and personal lives, no matter how long it may take. “Individual rapport with each student is vital to the methodology of APIE coaching, and coaches must be willing to get to know the students on a personal level,” Bradley says.
But there are a lot of challenges that classroom coaches must learn to overcome.
Sometimes students will seem uninterested in and disengaged from the group. One student in particular has proved to be a challenge this year for Bradley. “The frustrating part is that I see that this student understands the concepts,” Bradley says. “It has been a struggle to keep trying to include the student without detracting attention and help from the others.”
For this reason, Bradley is constantly learning how to better accommodate each student’s individual needs as a learner. While the math is an important part of the learning program, Bradley believes that it is also important to engage personally with the students and find out how they are doing and what they are excited about. “The students really want someone to show that they care about them, not just another teacher who comes in and makes them do math problems.”
One thing that has really drawn Bradley to volunteering with APIE has been the positive interaction with the people in the organization. “The coordinators and other volunteers really care about each individual student, and I value organizations that incorporate one-on-one interactions with the beneficiaries,” says Bradley.
Bradley also credits his commitment with APIE to Sandy Bootz, his volunteer coordinator. “Sandy has been an outstanding coordinator for the three years I’ve worked with her,” Bradley says. “She is a gifted teacher and leader and cares individually very well for each volunteer.”
If he could leave his students with one message, Bradley would tell them that their teachers, parents, and volunteers genuinely care about them. “Your success in school and in life is more than just a hobby for all of us,” Bradley says. “You have a value beyond just being a student with a homework grade, and you are not made any less or more of a person by your performance in school.”
Bradley hopes that APIE can continue to have a positive impact all over Austin in the future by enabling students to be confident community leaders. “I think it is a core component of APIE’s methodology to have individual interactions with students that remind them that they are capable, that they have intrinsic value, and that they are cared for as people.”
Why do we offer reading classroom coaching to 2nd grade? Why not 3rd, 4th, or 5th grades?
APIE’s 2nd grade Reading Classroom Coaching and Compañeros en Lectura programs are working to get students on grade level by 3rd grade. Leading education research supports the conclusion that a majority of students who cannot read by the 3rd grade have difficulty catching up academically (Double Jeopardy: How Third Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation, 2012).
“Results of a longitudinal study of nearly 4,000 students find that those who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.”
A study of 382 students from kindergarten to third grade by Canadian researchers showed that the gap between strong and struggling readers increases as children get older (Early Warning Confirmed, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation). Data points showed that readers who struggled at the beginning of the study fell further behind their peers, who were reading on grade level, as the study progressed.
In 2nd grade, kids should be transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. By helping them achieve grade-level fluency and comprehension, APIE’s Reading Classroom Coaching and Compañeros en Lectura are increasing the likelihood that these students will continue to high school graduation.
According to Early Warning Confirmed, there is “a link between failure to read proficiently by the end of third grade, ongoing academic difficulties in school, failure to graduate from high school on time and chances of succeeding economically later in life.”
The ultimate goal of all of APIE’s programs is to provide Austin ISD students with the preparation they need to be successful through high school and beyond, including college and career. We hope that by starting early, in second grade, we can boost these kids’ chances of succeeding academically and therefore empower them to improve their economic futures.
According to Austin ISD’s Department of Research and Evaluation, the most important predictor of overall dropout risk in Austin is failing the 9th grade TAKS (reading or math) or STAAR standardized tests. By supporting struggling middle school students to succeed in these subjects, APIE’s programs help reduce Austin ISD’s dropout rate.
A student’s level of academic achievement in the eighth grade has a significant impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school. Research by Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University concludes that the extent of middle school success is a huge indicator of whether students will “close achievement gaps, graduate from high school, and be prepared for college.”
During their middle school years, it is vital that students receive encouragement and support, since 50% of middle school students suffer from feelings of disengagement. By supporting students during these transitional years, their academic persistence and ultimate career success can be enhanced.
APIE’s programs are aligned with Austin ISD’s curriculum, and Classroom Coaching is intended to help students in the subjects that they find most challenging. Classroom Coaches function as tutors and mentors and build bonds with students as they shape ideas about their academic and professional futures. By ensuring that students are on track to meet college readiness standards during middle school, APIE empowers students to excel in high school, college, and career, thus boosting their chances at an improved economic future.
Candace McCray, Development Intern