Sitting in class might not be every student’s preferred way to spend the weekend, but for those who choose to attend Saturday School at Amidon-Bowen, the enthusiasm and the payoffs are real.
“The kids absolutely love it,” said Amidon-Bowen Principal Izabela Miller. “They get semi-private attention from their teachers, and immediate feedback on their work.”
Saturday School, which began in January, was an innovation born of the realization that some students needed additional time learning effective test techniques in order to improve their scores.
“We did not want to take time away from classroom instruction to focus on test-taking strategies,” said Principal Miller.
But with the growing importance of standardized testing, teachers, parents and students recognized that a certain amount of test-taking acumen would help students achieve improved results. Devoting off-hours to the pursuit seemed like a reasonable compromise.
The 20 students who regularly attend Saturday School enjoy a 5-1 student to faculty ratio and spend 1.5 hours on math and 1.5 hours on reading, with additional time on computational fluency using computers. They learn to read test questions looking for transitional words and do short readings and written responses. All of their work receives immediate feedback from their teachers, a highly effective way to ensure that the students retain what they have learned. The students re-write their responses as many times as necessary to get the exercise right. After the work is finished, the school provides lunch.
Principal Miller hopes to expand Saturday School next year, with longer hours and more students and volunteer teachers.
“There are many retired teachers in our community, and we would be delighted to have them help us on the weekends,” she said.
In order to participate in Saturday School and other mentoring and tutoring capacities, volunteers are required to receive their volunteer certification through the DCPS website at: dc.gov/DCPS/Parents+and+Community/Volunteer+in+Our+Schools.
In addition to hands-on community involvement, Principal Miller said Saturday School students would benefit from tangible incentives — small trinkets they could keep as a token of their hard work and dedication. For now, Amidon-Bowen’s budget cannot support such extras, and often the principal provides the treats with her own money.
Looking ahead to the future, Saturday School promises to be its own reward as students reap the benefits of their practice with higher test scores.
By Lucy Rojansky