MSPinNYC at Hunter College:
A Model Educational Program
With mass media exploding with news of the latest innovations in technological devices, it’s refreshing to see the mentor-mentee model used with dramatic success to enable failing HS students to score high on regents exams after a summer at Hunter College. Education Update visited Hunter College to see the New York City Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSPinNYC) summer program at work, hosted by Dr. Faith Muirhead, project director of the program, accompanied by guests Ernest Logan, president of the Council of Supervisors and administrators (CSA), Dr. Charlotte Frank, Senior VP, McGraw-Hill, and Marianita D.Damari, NYC Department of Education MSP Liaison. At the meeting we observed the comprehensive and successful summer program in action with lively class discussions, intense teacher planning sessions, and a tutor analysis meeting with respect to student performance.
The MSPinNYC five and a half week summer program is a productive learning experience for teachers, tutors, and of course for students, with 2006 data revealing a stunning 70 percent pass rate on the chemistry regents compared to the traditional city summer school program pass rate of 27 percent; a 90.6 percent pass rate on living environment compared to 35.8 percent for public school summer programs; 58.8 percent passing rate compared to 30.6 percent on the Math B regents exam; and a 56.7 percent pass rate compared to 32 percent on the Math A regents exam.
Several complementary factors differentiate MSPinNYC from traditional summer school programs including the heavy role of professional development, where teachers collaboratively discuss and analyze lesson plans; use debriefing sessions after classes for further analysis; and incorporate feedback from students to modify teaching methods. Tutors, comprised of high school and undergraduate students excelling in math and science, are an essential element of the program and play the role of “co-facilitator” during class sessions, Muirhead indicated, with more traditional tutoring on a three-to-one level during the afternoon.
Participating teachers underscored the uniqueness of MSPinNYC as collaborative teacher planning. Stanley Blauser, math teacher at the Gateway School for Environmental Research, appreciates the opportunity at MSPinNYC program “to see the subject from other teachers’ points of view.” He has additionally been able to test creative approaches to teaching math, and bring them to his regular classroom during the school year.
Hassan Laaroussi, participating math teacher from Truman HS also enjoys being able to share ideas with other teachers, and experiment with new teaching methods. He described the program as a place in which “wherever kids turn they will find help. If they turn to the left they will find tutors; forward they will find teachers…” He, as well, has been able to import techniques he practiced during the summer program to his classroom at Truman HS.
Four teachers involved in a science planning lesson shared how students, working on a metal reactivity task, engage in inductive reasoning; while not being told the point of their task, they discovered on their own a determination of chemical hierarchy through data collection and examination.
Muirhead further explained that students use college provided materials such as a petri dish—which some students have never seen before—to study their everyday interests including mouthwash and sunscreen. Following their experiments some students have exclaimed, “I felt like a scientist.”
During our visit to a Math A tutoring meeting, we watched tutors analyze student performance on regents questions, breaking down student errors, tackling misconceptions, and how to address the math problem from a different angle.
Tutors, Muirhead pointed out, actually take mock regents exams on a weekly basis, to monitor their expertise in the area. This year, MSPinNYC experimented with recruiting tutors who excelled as well as those who did not, in order to have a more empathetic group of tutors who had grappled with similar problems. Interestingly, as Dr. Frank indicated, research shows that mentors often learn more than mentees.
Careful analysis of class lessons for research and evaluation are being conducted this year by college professors, based on taped sessions, which will serve to further enhance the program in the future.
Of great interest, currently, is how to translate the program to additional high school sites. Presently, features of the summer school model are operating at two schools, Harry S. Truman HS and Columbus HS, although the two schools are using their own general models. MSPinNYC has provided tutors and professional development in the incorporation of tutors.
At the conclusion of the tour of the program, President Logan promised he would work toward incorporating this model in schools throughout the academic year. There are currently partnerships with colleges, where undergraduates majoring in math and science serve as tutors in high schools, and the hope is to solidify and increase such partnerships in the future.#