DELAVAN — A new grant-funded tutoring program at Turtle Creek Elementary School has helped dozens of students continue to gain vital academic, social and life skills after the school day’s final bell.
The 21st Century Community Learning Center, an after-school learning program for 89 students, focused on core subject instruction using a variety of fun and engaging teaching methods.
The program started at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. Organizers looked for it to increase the overall achievement of students, particularly in the areas of reading and math. After one year of the program, the progress of the students was outstanding, said CLC site supervisor Michelle Minton.
Nearly 40 percent of students saw at least one grade level increase in mathematics on their Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam and STAR Test math scores, and nearly 60-percent of students saw at least one grade level increase in their WKCE, STAR and/or Rigby reading scores, Minton said. The tests are used to measure academic proficiency. Nearly two-thirds of the students also showed great improvement on the ACCESS language acquisition and comprehension test, Minton said.
“It was a very successful year,” said Turtle Creek counselor Katie Kopp, who wrote the grant for the district. “There was a learning curve, but when we visited other CLC sites and our mentoring CLC site, they were very complimentary as far as what we’ve achieved in our first year.”
Delavan-Darien teachers staff the CLC program and are paid for the extra hours through the grant. In addition to Minton, there were three lead teachers, a music enrichment teacher, a counselor, social worker and tutors. Fifteen college students (mostly UW-Whitewater student teachers and field study students) also worked with the CLC and two paid high school students and six high school volunteers also provided support.
In addition to the staff, the CLC also received much student-learning support from outside community partners. Making the year-long commitment to support the CLC were: Delavan Parks and Recreation Department, Delavan’s Aram Public Library, 4-H Youth Development, UW-Extension office in Walworth County, UW-Whitewater Counselor Education, UW-Whitewater Science Outreach and the Walworth County Public Health Department.
The outside agencies provided many enrichment opportunities for the students, including sports and recreation activities, art projects, literacy support, live animal demonstrations, character building activities, science experiments, health and wellness awareness, and much more.
The program, which was funded by a five-year, $500,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education, ran after school for 137 days this past school year. Students selected for the program were identified by their achievement data and were asked to attend at least 30 days. Forty-three percent of the students attended more than 100 days at CLC.
In short, the students loved the program. “My son does not want me to pick him up early, and when I do, I have a hard time getting him to leave,” a parent once told CLC staffers, Minton said.
Students weren’t the only ones enjoying the program. Regular classroom teachers at Turtle Creek also observed noticeable improvements in CLC students’ behavior, demeanor, participation, confidence and skills, Minton said.
“We had a long elementary school day last year, which was draining for a lot of kids,” Minton said. “But a majority of them really wanted to be at CLC, staying after school and continuing their learning into the evening. We closed up at ten-minutes-to-six, and it was often dark outside by the time they left school.”
Minton and Kopp said they are excited to build upon the success of the first year for many years to come. The program will run again next year with about the same number of students. With the new district-wide dual language immersion program starting this school year at Turtle Creek, some of the new students in the program may have attended Darien or Wileman elementary schools in years past, Minton said.
“This will open up new doors for new Turtle Creek students who may not have known about this opportunity,” she said.
The district may apply to participate in the federal grant for a maximum of 15 years and receive up to $1.125 million, with up to $75,000 per year awarded in years 6-10, and $50,000 per year awarded in years 11-15.