Students are "Ready to Learn" with School Tutoring and Mentoring Program

by Abiola A. Farinde

The Center for Urban Education’s Ready to Learn (RTL) is a two-year tutoring and mentoring initiative and empirical study that prepares and connects University of Pittsburgh college scholars with Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, University Preparatory School (Milliones UPrep) middle and high school scholars to provide the Milliones UPrep students with experiences that support their academic progress in mathematics and English language arts, as well as social skill development. In addition, RTL Pitt scholars and Milliones UPrep scholars participate in social events and activities in and around the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh area in order to serve the community and gain exposure to diverse and experiential engagements.

In designing the program, the RTL leadership team examined the best research in the field and concluded that to effectively tutor and mentor Milliones UPrep scholars, the Pitt students must complete seminar-training sessions each semester to build five program competencies:

  1. urban context
  2. pedagogy
  3. mentoring and tutoring (mathematics, English, financial literacy, life skills, and study skills)
  4. research (action research)
  5. arts and technology

In addition, RTL Milliones UPrep scholars must also gain knowledge in the following program competencies:

  1. mathematics
  2. English language arts
  3. arts and technology
  4. study skills
  5. life skills
  6. financial literacy

The culmination of the Pitt scholars will be their capstone project, which is a research project dedicated to creating an art-focused technological resource with the assistance of their Milliones UPrep scholar that will further the academic and social progression of their Milliones UPrep mentees.

Ready to Learn Summer Academy

The purpose of the RTL Summer Academy is to combat summer “learning loss,” in which students lose proficiency due to lack of academic engagement during the summer months. The RTL Summer Academy commenced June 15, 2015—one week after school ended for Pittsburgh Public School students—and the program concluded on July 24, 2015, to accommodate students’ summer plans and vacations. The program operated from Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. The academy was open to all RTL Milliones UPrep students and was held at Pitt’s School of Education and the Falk School. The RTL leadership team purposefully held the summer academy on the Pitt campus to promote a sense of student connection to the university. In the summer program, ten sophomores received mathematics and English enrichment, as well as actively engaged in summer program activities. RTL Milliones UPrep scholars had full access to all school resources at the Falk School.

Ready to Learn 2015-2016

The RTL program began in October 2015 for the 2015-2016 school year, with 10 RTL Pitt scholars and 20 Milliones UPrep scholars. Since the beginning of the program, scholars have forged positive and culturally responsive mentor-mentee relationships, and tutoring and mentoring sessions have been academically driven. Further, the RTL leadership team has systematically studied the program’s development to improve the program’s effectiveness and better meet the needs of our students.

Ready to Learn Expansion

Due to community interest and need, the RTL leadership team would like to expand the RTL program to surrounding area schools. Presently, we have expanded our program in Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, University Preparatory School, to now include sixth grade students. The leadership team is continually looking for ways to make connections between schools while fulfilling our commitment to all student groups.

ABIOLA A. FARINDE is a post-doctoral research fellow and manager of the Ready to Learn program.