Innovative Tutoring Program Aims to Close Achievement Gap - We Raise Foundation

Innovative Tutoring Program Aims to Close Achievement Gap

Kids doing homework

The disruption in learning caused by the COVID pandemic is still being felt in many classrooms. The latest report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed a sharp decline in math and reading scores among students across the country. It’s a national trend that has trickled into communities like Woodlawn, located on the South Side of Chicago.

“The pandemic has negatively affected our students at a higher magnitude than other students,” said Taryn Fears, youth outreach director for Sunshine Gospel Ministries, which was started by Moody Bible Church and is one of the leading providers of supplemental education services in Woodlawn. “Math and reading are essential building blocks that galvanize students in other activities. That’s why it’s important that we take preventative steps now to ensure all students have every opportunity to thrive.”

In March 2023, We Raise Foundation awarded a $100,000 three-year GrantsPlus Grant to Sunshine to elevate their program offerings to improve reading and math capabilities. The “Empowering Youth: Enhancing Academic Success through Tutoring” program will begin when schools resume in September.

“A big thank you to We Raise who has a heart for these children in under-resourced communities,” Fears said. “This generous gift will help young people achieve more than what people think they can achieve.”

Afterschool enrichment

Currently, Sunshine serves 130 youth and teens in its afterschool enrichment program. Approximately 95% of participants attend a nearby elementary school. According to research, the school places in the bottom 50% of test scores with a math proficiency of 3% and a reading proficiency of 8%. About 25% of Woodlawn residents have a high school degree while only 13% have a bachelor’s degree, both significantly below state and city statistics.

The tutoring program will enhance the current homework assistance support by targeting the unique needs of students. The We Raise grant will allow Sunshine to hire eight part-time, experienced tutors for five hours a week for 32 weeks per school year. The paid tutors will work with groups of five youth for 30 minutes twice a week—one day will be dedicated to reading and the other will be to math. In addition, students from Moody Bible Institute will volunteer to mentor the youth and teens.

“It’s not just academics. It’s about relationships. Tutors and volunteers are role models who are pouring into these young lives,” Fears added. “We believe in radical hospitality and eagerly partner with organizations, like We Raise, that seek the expansion of God’s kingdom and restoration of Chicago. Just like We Raise, Sunshine aims to create sustainable programs that positively impact the lives of those in Woodlawn and beyond so that they may live abundant lives.”

By investing in like-minded partners—like Sunshine Gospel Ministries—and their innovative programs, generous We Raise donors are bringing hope for a more abundant future to the next generation of scholars in the Woodlawn community.

Smiling kids 

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Morgan Wilson