Ohio Wesleyan’s Grant-Funded Program Helps Children Improve Math, Reading After Pandemic
When the academic year concludes, 75 Ohio Wesleyan University students will have provided 1,775 hours of intensive mathematics and literacy tutoring to 219 children attending six area schools in Delaware and Franklin counties.
These “high-dosage” tutoring sessions, held for 30 to 45 minutes up to three times a week, are helping children in grades kindergarten through eight get back on track academically following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ohio Wesleyan students provide the free one-on-one and group tutoring as part of OWU’s new “Bishop Scholars” program. They currently tutor at Delaware City’s Conger and Woodward elementary schools; Buckeye Valley Local’s East and West elementary schools and middle school; and the Columbus Bilingual Academy North.
The Bishop Scholars program is supported by a two-year $499,170 grant awarded to the university in August by the Ohio Department of Education in partnership with the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
In choosing to fund high-dosage tutoring, state education officials cited Brown University research that shows such intensive instruction has the potential to produce “large learning gains for a wide range of students,” increasing achievement “by roughly an additional three to 15 months of learning across grade levels.”
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, five Ohio Wesleyan students traveled to Columbus to tutor third-graders at Columbus Bilingual Academy North (CBAN).
The OWU students – Tiwa Adediran ’25 of Columbus, Ohio; Carlos Coello Escoto ’24 of Washington, D.C.; Gabby Gonzalez-Duarte ’26 of Venezuela; Camila Morales ’25 of Chicago, Illinois; and Sai Suresh Kannan ’24 of India – teach in both Spanish and English as they work to help their young charges prepare for state proficiency testing.
Suresh Kannan, who is pursuing a Microbiology major and Data Analytics minor, said the OWU tutors try to help the children with whatever academic struggles they are facing.
“We give them encouragement and help them to know they can get it,” he said. “Most of the (CBAN) tutors are bilingual. We understand their struggles. We provide a safe environment for them to make mistakes and learn.”
To ensure his pupils are learning, added Escoto, he has them read stories in English and then translate them into Spanish. This helps to ensure the children truly comprehend the English language, he said, which is necessary for the state literacy testing.
“Without a good foundation, you have no structure,” said Escoto, a double major in Management Economics and Music (composition concentration).
Kerri Robe, Ohio Wesleyan’s assistant program manager of Community Service Learning, oversees the Bishop Scholars program, which she describes as “an innovative program that allows our student-tutors the opportunity to further develop and enhance critical leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills while allowing relationships to develop, resulting in a direct impact educationally.”
“Our student-tutors complete a comprehensive onboarding process that prepares them to effectively tutor youth in the school setting,” said Robe, a licensed social worker who previously worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio and with Ohio Wesleyan’s precursor to the Bishop Scholars program, the Columbus Initiative.
To support the best learning environment possible, she said, the OWU students use grant-funded Chromebooks to keep tutor logs that they can share quickly and easily with each other. They document information such as what learning approaches work best for each child.
“It’s important to create continuity in learning,” Robe said. “In some cases, children are taught by more than one tutor each week.”
With the inaugural year of the Bishop Scholars program nearly complete, Robe hopes to expand it during the 2023-2024 academic year to include up to 100 OWU tutors and to create protocols to ensure the program is working as effectively as possible.
To analyze the program, she is working to establish benchmarks in collaboration with Ohio Wesleyan Department of Education faculty Michele Nobel and Sarah Kaka. Noble helps to oversee the state grant.
“With expert knowledge from our Education Department, ongoing feedback from our school liaisons, and collaboration with each of our six school building partners, we will gain and analyze standardized test scores for each student served.” Robe said. “This data will enable us, as a program, to adjust our program according to the changing needs of the students we tutor.”
Also to help ensure the program is meeting its goals, representatives from the Ohio Department of Education visited Woodward Elementary recently, Robe said, to see the Bishop Scholars in action. Including Ohio Wesleyan’s funds, the department awarded $14 million in Statewide Mathematics and Literacy Tutoring Grants to colleges and universities last fall to help recover learning lost to the pandemic.
“We are fortunate to have highly engaged school partners, committed tutors, and unwavering support from the Ohio Department of Education, all of which allow us to invest in and impact these identified children positively,” Robe said. “We have seen growth in both academics and self-confidence and look forward to having these students realize their full potential.”
Learn more about Community Service Learning opportunities at Ohio Wesleyan at www.owu.edu/CommunityServiceLearning.