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One-on-one among the FLOC

(Published August 23, 1999)

By LUTISHIA PHILLIPS

Staff Writer

It’s about 6 p.m. on a recent Wednesday and, while other students in For the Love of Children’s 14th Street office are getting one-on-one attention to improve their study skills, 15-year-old Myra Sarceno is acting as receptionist, buzzing people in and answering the phone.

When she’s not occupied with her duties, she’s reading a book.

Five years ago, Myra enrolled in the nonprofit organization’s neighborhood tutoring program in need of help with her grammar, syllables and reading.

"I was their guinea pig," she recalls.

Now, her reading score on the Stanford Achievement Test, also known as the Stanford-9, has improved and she has already been awarded a college scholarship by an organization called Free the Children Washington. Under the scholarship program, Myra will receive $2,000 every year while attending a four-year college or vocational school.

Myra’s sister Evelyn is in a nearby room going over her vocabulary words with tutor Diane Shae. Evelyn will be in 4th grade this fall.

For the Love of Children’s 5-year-old program provides tutoring during the summer and after school for about 100 children from Northwest Washington’s Shaw neighborhood. The group’s main mission is helping neglected and abused kids throughout the District.

The neighborhood tutoring program resulted from a needs assessment survey FLOC distributed to parents and schools in Shaw. During the school year, FLOC has partnerships to tutor at Shaw Junior High School, Scott Montgomery Elementary School and Garrison Elementary School. The program is divided among eight sites with an enrollment of about 240 students and 210 tutors.

Christine Young, who co-ordinates the program, de-scribes it as very structured and one-on-one. She said most of the students advance one and half grade level after 40 hours of assistance.

"A friend of mine told me of the program his children had gone through and how successful it was," said Young, referring to a national program on which FLOC based its own. Young said the curriculum is modeled after a two decades old 36-step reading and writing comprehension phonics-based program called "Sing, Spell and Read."

That’s how 6-year-old Diamond Lee learned the alphabet.

In one of FLOC’s classrooms, Diamond and tutor Sarah Kilbey are standing barefoot among big plastic yellow letters. Kilbey pushes a button on a tape player and a contemporary alphabet song blares in the room. On cue, both of them sing along while placing the letters on a board. Diamond shouts each letter with confidence.

"She’s learned them pretty fast," said arithmetic resource coordinator Jackie Loeb.

Loeb said one of FLOC’s goals is to teach algebra to as many 8th graders as possible. Young noted that competency in algebra drastically increases students’ ability to go on to college. She said the program’s math curriculum emphasizes back-to-basics lessons.

"There were a lot of programs that helped with homework, but we wanted to find one that would allow the students to achieve more," Young said of her organization’s efforts to design its tutoring program on successful models. Parents have told her their children want to read to them instead of them reading to their children, she noted.

Young describes FLOC’s program as a highly structured remedial program that helps children and young adults achieve grade-level competency in reading and arithmetic. When students complete 36 steps, they move to a more advanced level.

"Within a seven-month period, students enrolled in our in-school tutoring achieve an average (advancement) of almost two full grade levels," Young said.

"One teacher at Garrison told me he had 25 students who scored ‘below basic’ on the Stanford-9 last year and this year they have all advanced."

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator