A unique summer school program in New York City is helping disadvantaged students avoid the summer slide through working with mentors. Practice Makes Perfect pairs students in K-8th grade who need remediation and/or enrichment in the summer with high-achieving, older students from their own neighborhood. These students in 8th-12th grades serve as mentors and tutors for the younger children. In turn, the high school students are mentored by college students who plan to become teachers. For these teaching fellows, the program is an internship. The college students are then supported by veteran classroom teachers, who serve as teacher coaches or mentors for them.
Karim Abouelnaga, the CEO of Practice Makes Perfect calls this mentoring circle their “everyone wins” model. The younger students improve academically, the high school aged mentors are exposed to college students, the teaching fellows get real-world classroom experience, and the classroom teachers receive professional development hours through serving as coaches. The program appears to be working. It has an average attendance rate of 85 percent, and an independent evaluation found that, on average, Practice Makes Perfect scholars return to school a month ahead in math and two months ahead in reading.
The teaching fellows and mentors work to make this experience different from traditional summer school. The focus is on academics, but the curriculum offered is tailored to each school. The students have spirit days once a week and participate in spelling bees and math bees. “The goal is to make learning and education fun, cool, and exciting, and I think that’s what makes the difference for students,” said Abouelnaga.