- Interviewee: Ari, Amherst College graduate
- Organization: MATCH Charter High School (Boston)
- Role: volunteer tutor, one year commitment
- Interviewer: Andy Pethan
- Date: October 2010
More about MATCH
- See a thorough index of the training program agenda and reference binder contents
- Additional thoughts on MATCH and the training program from Alia, the director of the MATCH Corps
Between dinner and a short second tour of MATCH, I spent over 2.5 hours with Ari learning about MATCH. MATCH is a public charter high school near Boston with about 250 students. Unlike most high schools, however, MATCH also has about 40 volunteer tutors living on the third floor of the school who are paired up with individuals and small groups of students (where the name "match" comes from). Ari is one of this year's tutors. A month into the school year, she seems incredibly busy yet in love with her job. I couldn't possibly type up everything we talked about, but here, in no particular order, is a large selection of highlights.
9th grade: Students spend 5 hours/day in classes and 2 hours/day in their tutorial session with their tutor, usually alone or with only one other student, Monday to Thursday. Classes include english, physics, speech + composition, algebra 1, and reading group. On Friday, students have phy-ed, health, computer skills, and soon a Friday Academy that Ari is co-leading.
10th grade: This is a similar schedule with the following classes: english, geometry, algebra 2, biology, and history. Tutorial sessions are more likely to be 1 tutor with 2 students.
11th grade: Junior classes include an AP language class, pre-calculus, Spanish, chemistry, and AP US History. The 2 hour/day tutorial block includes more people (usually 3 students) and is more structured. One hour is set aside to work on the AP classes with the tutor, and the second hour is for academic counciling and study skills. This is not a free homework period, but instead is more focused on studying for exams.
12th grade: Seniors all take AP Calculus, a choice of senior english or AP Lit and Comp, either AP Chemistry or AP Biology, and a college readiness course. They also take at least one class at BU. During their final year, students no longer receive help in tutorial sessions, as the school would like to prepare them for the independence of college.
Ari has a group of students she tutors in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades, consuming 6 hours of her long and busy days.
As I listened to Ari describe the methodology used in the school around lesson planning, I noticed a number of similarities to the approach taken by Teach for America. They are very goal-oriented and communicated this to students by posting the SWBAT (students will be able to) and agenda for the day on the board. Each class has a clear and predictable structure for the period that holds students accountable for their work. Teachers begin the class with a short "do now" independent task and end each day with a "ticket to leave", something the student must complete to show they understood what was being taught during the lesson. Direct teaching and practice time make up the rest of class. This structure resembles the "workshop model" I've seen at other public schools around Boston.
Setting the Tone
EVERY morning, when the students show up the school, the principal is at the door to greet students. He asks each of them, every day, "Why are you here?". They respond, "To learn". He then asks, "What will it take?". They respond, "Courage, discipline, and perseverance", and head off to class. This sends a very clear message of why they are in school.
Additionally, tutors work with students to set big picture goals at the start of the year. These may include "pass the 10th grade", "pass all five classes with at least an 85%, or "reach 100% homework completion for the year".
Secondary Roles of Tutors at MATCH
- TA for a class (each class has 1 TA)
- College counciling
- ARD (Friday academy?)
- Principal's assistant
Data System, Grades, and Discipline
The data system in place at MATCH is all-encompassing, brilliantly designed, and used with the care of human eyes. Here are some of the primary things that are logged:
- Completion of every homework assignment (posted within a day)
- Grade of every assignment (posted within a week)
- Demerits/behavior violations
- Academic violations (too many bad grades may get you kicked out)
Some parts of the system are automatic. For example, if a student forgets to complete an assignment, an auto-dialer will call the parent to inform them of the missing work. Other parts are left for interpretation by the tutors, teachers, and staff. Instead of giving parent direct access to grades in Powerschool, MATCH tutors instead call home once each week to give a more detailed summary about their child's progress, behavior, and academic performance, as well as factors that likely contributed to any problems or successes.
The demerit system is very strict, and after 4 demerits, the student is given a detention. For students with ADHD, their is an alternative to detention, Saturday morning community service, that is given after a sufficient number of detentions are accrued.
The school day lasts from 8:30 to 4:00. Programs continue going at the school until 6:15. These include homework labs (informal spaces for students working on the same class's homework with a tutor) and the student intervention program, which provides one on one support for students in danger of failing.
On some weekends, sophomores receive MCAS (Massachusetts state testing) prep, and juniors receive SAT prep.