‘Memphis Model’ tutoring program to bolster classroom instruction

Announcing a restructured high school tutoring program touted as the “Memphis Model,” leaders of Shelby County Schools joined philanthropic and higher education stakeholders on Wednesday to unveil an investment designed to significantly increase instruction in the classroom.

Thanks to a philanthropic gift by local millionaire commodities trader Charlie McVean, more than 100 University of Memphis students will be hired and trained as tutors this summer and dispatched this fall to classrooms at East and Whitehaven high schools.

But unlike the city’s traditional Peer Power tutoring structure that is voluntary and after school, the Memphis Model will shift to a mandatory, in-school program that equates to 1,000 hours of tutoring each week. With this investment, the instructor-student ratio is expected to go from 1:29 to 7:1.

“It represents a huge expansion of Peer Power,” said McVean, who will continue to give $1 million annually for the tutoring initiative. “This is the real deal. This way we can get to 100 percent of the kids instead of 25 percent.”

The tutors, who will be called “success coaches,” will assist teachers of Algebra I, Biology I and English I classes. They will be paid $11 an hour.

The initiative represents a partnership of the school district, the university and the Peer Power Foundation, launched by McVean in 2005 at East High School, where McVean graduated in 1961.

“Our three-way partnership, combining a major university with a large public school system and an innovative private foundation, may very well prove to be a national model for addressing the most serious challenge facing America today,” Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said during the announcement at the school district’s headquarters.

McVean said the Memphis Model is a natural evolution of Peer Power, which has tutored more than 10,000 students and helped to increase test scores of participants.

While effective, the after-school, voluntary program often conflicted with sports and extracurricular activities and personal responsibilities, as well as students being ready to leave school when the bell rings.

Whitehaven principal Vincent Hunter said the extra classroom help will assist faculty in providing one-on-one instruction for more students. “This program will be the greatest outside support we have ever had,” he said.

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