Tag Archives: tutor

Volunteer on Saturdays to Work with At-Risk Inner City Children

Our friends at Big Bethel A.M.E. Church in downtown Atlanta are reaching out on Saturdays to at-risk and neglected children. Their Saturday school aims to promote academic achievement, good character, and self esteem. Big Bethel–one of our partners in the Interfaith Children’s Movement–has asked us to roll up our sleeves and join in this important effort.

Many of the children Big Bethel serves live in the Old Fourth Ward, where UUCA partners with Hope-Hill Elementary and Operation P.E.A.C.E.. Those of us who have seen Big Bethel’s program in action can attest to the value of the work the church is doing on Saturdays with children of all faiths.

Big Bethel’s Saturday program runs from 10 to 3 at the church’s recreational center located at 208 Auburn Avenue. Volunteer reading classroom helpers are needed from 10:30 a.m. to noon each Saturday. Volunteer math classroom helpers are needed from 1 p.m. to approximately 2:30 p.m. No experience is required for classroom helper volunteers.

Math, reading and writing tutors also are needed to work in 50 minute sessions with small groups of students or one-on-one. We are especially interested in experienced tutors who can establish an individualized curriculum for an at-risk student; volunteer tutors who are current, former, or retired teachers are especially welcome.

If you can help, please fill out this form and submit it. If you would prefer to work with children at a certain grade level or range of grade levels, please let us know in Grade Level Preferences; if you don’t have a grade preference, you may leave that field blank. In the “how many Saturdays” field please indicate whether you can come most or all Saturdays every month, or only certain Saturdays, for example, the second and fourth Saturdays. If you have a special interest or talent you would like to share with the children, there is a field for that, too.

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Hope-Hill Elementary School (HHES) 2013 Volunteer Opportunities

The staff of Hope-Hill Elementary is eager to enlist UUCA members and other community partners as volunteers at the school.  Principal Maureen Wheeler told us, “We’ll use as many volunteers as you can give us.”woman and young boy

To help you decide when and how you’d like to help, please click  on 2013 HHES Volunteer Opportunities to review available volunteer opportunities.  After deciding what you’d like to do, follow the steps below.

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) now require volunteers to renew their background check each new academic year.  If you have not already done so, you can obtain the required background check form at the  website below.  (The form is available at the Hope-Hill table in the Social Hall on Sundays.)  In a single visit to the school, you can turn in your completed form and obtain a volunteer assignment that matches your preferences!

Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/Page/26236.  Click on Volunteer Release Form.  Print and complete the form as a Level 2 Volunteer.
  2. Take your completed form, plus your driver’s license or other photo ID to Hope-Hill ES (112 Boulevard NE, Atlanta 30312).  Give the form to Nicole Jones at the front desk.  She will make a copy of your driver’s license or other picture ID and submit the form to APS.  It takes about a week for the form to be processed.
  3. While at the school, ask to meet with one of the two Instructional Coaches:  Kelly Day (grades K-2) or Michelle Crawford (grades 3-5).  They will help you find the grade level, subject area, time slot, and day(s) of week to match your preferences.   If Michelle or Kelly are not available, you can call to make a later appointment by calling 404-802-7450 or e-mail:  kaday@atlantapublicschools.us or macrawford@altantapublicschools.us.

As soon as your background check is cleared by APS headquarters, you will be notified, and you can go to work helping kids learn.

You might want to jot on a slip of paper your contact info along with your volunteer preferences, such as grade level/age, subject, times, etc.

Please be sure to let Howard Rees, UUCA/Hope-Hill Volunteer Coordinator  know what your assignment is, and if  he can be of  help to you.  Here is Howard’s contact information:  Phone: 404-874-0500; E-mail: reshow@gmail.com

Thank you for your commitment of time and for caring about the precious children of Hope-Hill.

Jocelyn Medium Pic

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At Partner Summit Hope-Hill’s New Principal Acknowledges Problems, Announces Five Goals

Last week Hope-Hill’s new principal, Ms. Maureen Wheeler, held a Partner Summit with representatives from UUCA and other partner organizations. She minced no words. Looking in the aggregate at the school’s standardized test for the last academic year in grades three through five,

  • 23 percent failed reading,
  • 28.6 percent failed English/language arts,
  • 43.8 percent failed math,
  • 49.1 percent failed social studies, and
  • 50.3 percent failed math.

Some Hope-Hill students are doing well. But far too many are failing now—and academic failure now is only the precursor to a downward spiral later on in life.

And, as Ms. Wheeler pointed out, the problems that show up when standardized testing begins in grade three begin with a failure to master basic skills in the earlier grades.

Too many Hope-Hill students walk in the kindergarten door lacking the number sense and the vocabulary on which academic success is built. The problem is intractable. Declaring grandiose aspirations doesn’t solve the problem. Reasonable, measurable goals are needed. To that end, Ms. Wheeler announced these five goals for Hope-Hill Elementary School:

1. To increase reading achievement by 5-10 percent in grades three through five by

  • vocabulary acquisition,
  • literacy across the content,
  • writing across the curriculum, and
  • early literacy programs.

2. To increase math achievement in grades three through five by 5-10 percent.

3. To increase the amount of parent participation by 50 percent for education workshops focused on improving student achievement.

4. Implementing a Positive Behavior Intervention Program: “Eagle Expectations.”

5. Providing a welcoming, safe and supportive environment for all stakeholders.

We welcome and support these goals. Come by our table in the social hall on Sundays to find out more about how you can help.

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The 2013 CRCT (Criterion Referenced Competency Test) Results at Hope-Hill

Multiple controversies surround the role and significance of standardized teststress1testing in the public schools. Glib and unhelpful pronouncements abound. We cannot solve the controversies, and will try to avoid the glib pronouncements.  Several points stand out.

Some Good News

While Hope-Hill has yet to match the schools in Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average, we are happy to report that a significant minority “exceeded expectations” for their grade levels. Among Hope-Hill fifth graders who took the CRCT in the spring of 2013, about 18 percent “exceeded the standard” in reading.[1]  These are “students [who were] consistently able to determine central ideas or themes of a text, analyze their development, and summarize the key supporting details and ideas.  They [exhibited] an in-depth understanding of how to infer and analyze various literary elements and techniques.  They [were] able to make judgments and inferences and substantiate them with evidence from the text. …”[2]

In math, 21 percent of Hope-Hill’s fifth graders “exceeded expectations” because they demonstrated “broad and in-depth evidence of conceptual and abstract knowledge of the four content domains. They [had] an advanced understanding of the place value system. They [were] proficient in performing operations with multi-digit whole numbers and with decimals to thousandths. They [used] equivalent fractions as a strategy to add and subtract fractions. …”

The Good News Qualified and Put in Context

It’s great that a fifth of Hope-Hill’s fifth graders are very proficient in reading and math, but remember this. UUCA supporters joined with many others in Hope-Hill’s neighborhood to push, successfully, for inclusion of Hope-Hill in the “Grady Cluster” of schools feeding into Inman Middle School and Grady High School.

That means that, a short time ago, when last year’s fifth graders started sixth grade with students from other schools, they were sitting next to  graduates of other elementary schools where between 42 and 76 percent of students—not 18 percent—“exceeded standards” in reading. And where between 37 and 80 percent—not just 21 percent—“exceeded standards” in math.

And What About the “Average” Kids?

They’re often overlooked, but let’s not make that mistake. In math, 51 percent of Hope-Hill’s fifth graders fell into the middle range of kids that “met the standard.” Combined with the 21 percent who were significantly better than average, we get a total of 72 percent who didn’t fail. (See, we tutors can do math, too.)

The reading picture is much the same: 57 percent “met the standard,” and 18 percent “exceeded the standard,” which meant that a total of 75 percent passed.

It doesn’t sound too bad, when you look at it like that; certainly, it could be worse. But the results from the other four schools in the Grady Cluster are much more skewed toward the upper “exceeds standards” band. For example, at Mary Lin, where 95 percent of the fifth graders passed reading, two thirds  of those who passed were in the “exceeds” category and only one third in the “meets standards” band.

And there’s another piece of bad news for the “average” kids at Hope-Hill. In science, 54 percent of the fifth graders failed, compared with 11, 8, 2, and 7 percent, respectively for the other four public elementary schools in the Grady Cluster. The results in social studies were very much the same.

Perhaps, if a Hope-Hill graduate enters sixth grade knowing how to read and do math, she’ll be able over the coming years to make up what she doesn’t know about science and American history. But still …

Kids with Big Challenges

Our experience and our observations tell us that a minority, but a significant minority, of Hope-Hill students enter kindergarten lacking a good “number sense”—and have a vocabulary that’s much smaller than a lot of kids have at that age. It’s a major lift for the teachers to close the gap during the elementary school years. In fact, it’s a major lift to keep the gap between challenged kids and the privileged kids from growing a lot wider.

Look at last year’s results for fifth graders at the five public elementary schools in the Grady Cluster:

% Failing Reading

% Failing Math

Centennial Place






Mary Lin






Springdale Park



Our Challenge

Our congregation has been at Hope-Hill for two decades. We know the children, and we know that they are just as capable of learning as the kids at the other schools.  We also know that a good many of them face circumstances that make learning hard. Our challenge is to support the principal, faculty, and staff of Hope-Hill in overcoming these obstacles to learning.

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Maria Had a Dream—A Story for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

The UUCA tutor met Maria, a first grader, in October. She appeared to have mlk2no English at all.

The powers that be gave the tutor a set of exercises and “games” to use with Maria. They all involved sounding out three-letter words comprised of a consonant, a short vowel, and another consonant, like “cap” or “mat.”

Maria proved to be a biddable child, and she seemed actually to enjoy the task, or at least not to mind it. As October turned into November, and November into December, Maria and the tutor kept on task. She became increasingly proficient at correctly sounding out “bat,” “cat,” “sat,” and “rat.” But when asked if she knew what a word meant, Maria would mutely shake her head.

The tutor had limited Spanish, and so was able to tell her, for example, that “cat” meant un gato. Maria seemed appreciative to learn this information, and would promptly move on to sounding out the next word.

Maria’s patience exceeded the tutor’s, but they both soldiered on. By the Christmas break, the tutor was being heard to mutter in the social hall that “We might as well be teaching her to sound out words in Old Church Slavonic.”

That’s when the Unitarian miracle occurred.

By the time tutoring recommenced after the holiday break, Maria had made a breakthrough. During the first tutoring session in January, she began demanding, in simple English, to know the meaning of every word. In some cases the tutor could mime the meaning. When Maria asked about “dig,” the tutor acted out digging a hole with a shovel, producing much merriment.

Sometimes it was harder to convey meanings. When Maria wanted to know what “tin” was, the tutor responded that tin is a metal. “What is metal?” Maria sensibly inquired. There ensued an exploration of the classroom, to find objects made of metal.

DictionaryAs the tutor left for the day, a light bulb appeared over his head. Remembering that there are such things as picture dictionaries, that “define” words for little children by showing them pictures, the tutor detoured by Barns & Noble and secured The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary, in English and Spanish. (It works this way. To define “afraid,” there is a drawing of a little girl in fear of a mouse, followed by a short sentence, “Alice is afraid,” which is then translated into Spanish: “Alicia tiene miedo.”)

The following week, when Maria received her book at the close of the tutoring session, and grasped what it was, she was flabbergasted. After pausing to digest her good fortune, Maria looked up at the tutor and said, in a serious and determined voice, “I’m going to learn every word in this book.”

The tutor wasn’t surprised by her determination, but he did marvel at her ability to articulate that English sentence.

Kids don’t always remember to thank people for their gifts, but you may be sure that in their next session Maria, without prompting, thanked the tutor profusely for her book. The only problem, she allowed, was that she had gotten in trouble for staying up to late to peruse her new dictionary.

As winter turned to spring, the tutor and Maria were able to converse about a wide range of topics. In their last session, as the school year was about to end, Maria took the tutor’s hand and asked him to walk with her back to her class. Outside the classroom the teacher had pinned a poster of President Obama, with Martin Luther King looking over the President’s shoulder.

Maria let go the tutor’s hand and pointed to Dr. King. “That’s Martin Luther King,” she said. “He had a dream.”

“And that,” she added, pointing to the President, “is Barack Obama. He had a dream, too.”

“Yes,” thought the tutor. “And I’ll bet I know a little girl who also has a dream.”


When we tell our stories, the children are real and the stories are true, but the names are changed.

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Volunteer on Saturday for Old Fourth Ward Kids!

Our friends at Big Bethel AME Church on Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta need our help in meeting the needs of at-risk children. Some of us are working in their Saturday outreach program, but we need more help.

We need reading classroom helpers each Saturday from 10:30 to 11:30 AM.

Volunteer reading, writing, math, and computer lab tutors are also needed each Saturday from 1:00 to 2:45 PM, to work in 50-minute sessions one-on-one or with small groups of students.

A particular need is for mentors for young boys.

Big Bethel’s Saturday program—which serves children from the first through the eighth grade—provides  a much needed service for some of Atlanta’s poorest kids, and a richly rewarding experience for tutors.

Recently, one of our tutors helped a first grader—who was a little shaky on _A444726-Editthe ones place and the tens place—to master basic addition and subtraction. It was a rewarding experience for all concerned.

If you’re interested. please contact Beth Davis (etdavis6@earthlink.net or 404 687-8641; email preferred), and let her know about any special interests and talents you have, your availability, and your preference in terms of subject and grade level.

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Thanks to OPEACE Contributors and Volunteers

woman and boy small picUUCA has concluded a second summer of outstanding support for Operation P.E.A.C.E.’s  8-week Summer Academy held on Boulevard in the Old Fourth Ward.   This spring, 76 UUCA members/friends contributed over $9,800 to help cover the costs for children from low-income families. From mid-June to early August, 10 UUCA volunteers provided 450+ hours of tutoring and academic enrichment activities.

Special thanks go to UUCA volunteers Kathryn Adams, Beth Davis, Ron Davis, Susan Duderstadt, Martha Garettinger, Jocelyn Jackson, Jane MacGregor, Bettye Manson, Susan Ottzen, and Howard Rees for their time, energy and enthusiasm.  Working along side volunteers from Our Lady of Lourdes and Big Bethel AME Church, kids attending the academy were engaged in a host of fun and stimulating math, reading, and science activities.

working with kids According to Beth Davis, “The kids LOVED the science projects created and led by Susan Duderstadt  — they did not want to miss them!”  Science topics included Ecosystems and Space.  Volunteers were carefully matched with kids who were struggling with their reading. Math tutoring was provided for kids who were significantly below grade level with their math skills.

Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Council Member, attended the “Grand Finale” on August 2nd which featured the kids sharing in song, dance, and skits much of what they had experienced and learned about over the 8 weeks.

An unexpected and positive outcome is that UUCA volunteers have been invited to join OPEACE’s After-School Program for the coming school year.  We will provide fun reading and math activities to bolster academic achievement. mand and boy small   

OPEACE serves children and families who live in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, an inter-city neighborhood where the average annual family income is well below the poverty line.  The majority of children attending OFW public schools qualify for free breakfast and lunch programs.  A significant number of elementary, school-aged children score below grade level on scholastic assessment measures, such as the CRCT test.  To learn more about the work of OPEACE, go to: http://www.operation peace.org. 

UUCA’s involvement with OPEACE reflects collaboration between Promise the Children (PTC) and the Hope-Hill Advisory Teams (HHAT).  Our aim is to promote the well-being of all children through advocacy and direct service.  We have a variety of opportunities for volunteer involvement, such as one-time only events/projects: one-on-one math or reading tutoring with a child in need; or serving as a classroom helper.  Come by the PTC/HHAT table in the Social Hall on Sundays to learn how you can make a difference.girls dancing medium

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