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Making the Grade: CMS, Greater Enrichment Program supporting CMS students with after school academic programs

After school enrichment programs are helping CMS students with homework, tutoring, and more
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 9:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students are now back in the classroom five days a week.

School leaders say they’re working to overcome “unfinished learning” that’s happened since the start of the pandemic.

So how are students getting the help they need outside of the regular school day?

CMS’ After School Enrichment Program has 80 sites across the county serving students five days a week from dismissal until 6:00 p.m.

Genevieve McIlwain has been working with students in ASEP for over 10 years. She’s a site coordinator at Chantilly Montessori School and has worked in after-school programs for 20 years.

“It’s not only ASEP it takes parents also, because learning starts at home, but we are there to enhance their learning and we try to work hand in hand with the teachers to see what they need us to do do to help those students also” McIlwain said.

Below is the recent enrollment data for ASEP and CMS’ before-school programs.

August 2019 – 4,115 in ASEP and 1364 in Before School Care

August 2021 – 2,729 in ASEP and 801 in Before School Care

Enrollment did not start last school year until November.

Staff help with homework, tutoring, fields trips plus STEM and art activities.

With the pandemic and differences in learning models, McIlwain says they’ve seen students struggling but are now making progress with full in-person learning.

“When you’re on zoom you tend to lose focus but with them being here you can readjust them back and redirect them back to what they need to be doing,” McIlwain said.

But with recently released test scores showing disparities in performance between Black and Brown Students, the question is... is ASEP making the grade? McIlwain says it is and she has seen it with her own eyes even before the pandemic.

“This student was having trouble reading so I said ‘I’m gonna help you.” The teacher gave me his flashcards we went over the flashcards by the time he left he was reading.”

School leaders say they are adding a 45-minute skills block to the curriculum to boost reading skills for kindergarten through third graders.

McIlwain says bridging the achievement gap doesn’t just fall on the teachers.

“As they say a village to help the students, not just the teachers, it takes everybody working with that student to help that student build up his confidence,” McIlwain said.

ASEP isn’t the only enrichment program supporting CMS students.

For over 40 years the Greater Enrichment Program has been enriching the minds of students across Mecklenburg County.

GEP has six sites, four of which are just for CMS students.

“We are coming into the schools to support the day learning. We are part of the village it’s not just the CMS teachers and the public school system that are able to provide the academic program,” said Bronica Glover, GEP’S executive director.

Earlier this month CMS released the end-of-course scores and graduation rates for the 2020-2021 school year.

Data showed a decline in college and career readiness rates and a lower graduation rate for Black and Brown students.

CMS also has over forty low performing schools - many of which are made up of predominantly Black students.

“When I hear these statistics, I know that GEP is needed but that’s why we’re here to support the public school system,” Glover said.

GEP offers homework support, academic tutoring, and other enrichment through highly qualified teachers - some of whom got their start at CMS.

Glover realizes student learning doesn’t just happen at school which is why they’re supporting students five days a week after school too.

“Our school partners are great; teachers are very helpful they’re letting us know what students need to be doing during the after-school hours,” Glover said.

When it comes to minority students, Glover says they’re working on their academics not just for end-of-course tests but their retention too.

“At the end of the school day they’re coming into our program and they’re further getting enriched through the academic program that we provide,” Glover said. “It’s high-quality work it’s high-quality curriculum, again to ensure that the students are getting - because we know especially our minority students, we have a large ESL population, so they need more than just a regular school day.”

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