Students participating in a tutoring program at Inverness Middle School will get more than a grade boost.
United Way of Citrus County’s Homework Diner program will give select students free math tutoring after school. The program also offers a complimentary dinner and a ride home via school bus if needed.
The program, which is expected to start at Inverness during the third week of October, is meant to strengthen students’ understanding of the fundamentals of math so they can build upon those concepts in future classes, said Amy Meek, United Way of Citrus County CEO.
“We wanted to start something to help make sure that middle schoolers really feel confident in math and feel ready to take on that challenge so that they can be successful in completing graduation requirements,” Meek said.
Homework Diner is geared toward sixth-graders and will assist up to 30 students per school. Teachers recommend their students to the program based on their math performance in the classroom, she said.
The nonprofit organization partnered with the school district to establish the program in October 2014, starting at Crystal River Middle School, Meek said.
The program ran for 30 weeks and helped 30 students. Sessions will resume at Crystal River in mid-October
At both schools, tutoring sessions will be held by three teachers for about two hours every Tuesday and Thursday. Although the focus is on math, tutoring hours also give students a chance to receive help in other subjects as well, said Ernest Hopper, Inverness Middle School principal.
Following the lessons, students will be provided with a meal cooked by the school’s food-service departments. Students’ families are welcome to join in on the dinners, Hopper said
The program provides an opportunity for students and families to eat meals they might not get at home, and take the time to sit down together and communicate.
Communication has been a key aspect of the program’s success at Crystal River so far. The teachers provided constant encouragement and strived to make the lessons fun and applicable to real-life instances, Meek said.
“I think, more than anything, not only do [the teachers] see improvements in the grades and the quality of the homework they turn in and things like that, but they’ve been able to see the kids really engage and increase their confidence,” she said.
Ninety-four percent of last year’s Crystal River Middle School participants reported feeling more confident in math following the 30 weeks of tutoring sessions, Meek said. All of the students advanced to the next grade level.
Hopper said although 100 percent of Inverness Middle School’s sixth-graders passed their math classes last year, any help the program provides will be beneficial to the students.
“Hopefully, it’s a win-win situation: a win for the school because you have students who are receiving better math scores in the end and also a win for the students because the students are benefiting from that and not getting behind in math,” he said.
United Way pays for the program, which costs $37,000 per school each year, Meek said. She wants to see it extend to Citrus County’s two other middle schools and expand the current capacity from 30 to 90 students, but doing so will take a lot of additional funds.
“I think it’s important for people to understand that this is something that’s really needed,” she said. “And we do want to keep it going, and we want to keep it growing.”