Making a Difference: Targeted Tutoring
The Lahaina community rallies to help boost students’ test scores.
Kim Willis, a volunteer tutor in the Lahaina Tutoring Program, was walking to class with her third-grade students when a student from the previous year ran up to her in the hall and said, “Miss Kim, Miss Kim, I’m on honor roll. And it’s all because of you.”
Willis can’t share that story without her voice cracking and tears starting to pool in her eyes. And when Richard and Pat Endsley, founders of this free, after-school tutoring program, tell this tale, their vocal chords also tense with emotion. Because for this child, and other students enrolled in the program, honor roll has always been someone else’s story. These students are the overlooked, the kids who need a little extra attention, but don’t qualify for government assistance or have parents who can afford private tutors. They come from single-parent families, or two-parent homes where both parents work two jobs to stay afloat in this resort town. The students may be bright, but they are underachieving.
Pat and Richard Endsley started the program in 2001, after hearing about the dismal test scores of students in their community. Some reports showed that children were reading four years behind grade level. So the Endsleys met with educators to design a program to improve test scores and, as a result, they have brought a community together. Retired professional educators, with 63 combined years working in nearly every aspect of education in California, the Endsleys now devote their leisure time to tutoring, meeting with teachers, grant writing and motivating others.
“Making a difference is still one of the better impulses in human beings,” Richard says. “And in most cases we are making a difference. We don’t succeed with every child, but the percentage is so high. And when you can see the growth, it’s just great.”
Prior to her retirement from the Berkeley Unified School District, Pat, who is originally from Hawaii, had provided teacher training and workshops in Hawaii. She designed a program based on state testing requirements and teacher curriculum. In the resulting program, students are flagged for the program by counselors and teachers, and work with volunteers at a 4-to-1 ratio. The ratio provides peer support and garners better results than one-on-one tutoring, Pat says. Students and parents must sign a contract prior to being admitted into the program, but there is still a waiting list of interested families.
The school provides use of the classroom and office equipment for the tutoring program, while the city underwrites post-tutoring bus transportation to the local Boys and Girls Club for a centralized pickup. Local organizations donate snacks, books and supplies. The kids themselves provide the enthusiasm—they want to be involved. Unlike some tutoring programs, it’s a sign of status to be chosen for this one. This year, more than 200 students from four schools and 70 volunteers will participate in the program.
Many of the volunteers are retired teachers like the Endsleys, but some, like Luana Paahana, take time away from work to help out. Paahana, who is director of sales and marketing at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, says her employer sees the program as a benefit and pays for her time away from her job.
“This program really appealed to me, because it was for the kids who are right in the middle,” Paahana says. “They are not gifted and talented, they are not special ed, they are right in the middle and they just need an extra boost.”
Paahana also knows this first-hand as a parent. Her son, who is in the math and reading program, used to struggle. Now, she says, he loves to read.
“To see my son go through this program and do better in school, enjoy reading more and to be more confident, that, above all, is inspiring,” Paahana says. She says as a parent she also appreciates having another adult who can “sow into my child’s life good seeds, good words and be that village of people around them that will help them. And the tutoring program definitely provides that.”
Making a Difference is presented in partnership with Hawaii Community Foundation, a statewide grant-making organization supported by generous individuals, families and businesses to benefit Hawaii’s people. For information: www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org