CMS’ achievement gaps are growing. Community leaders launch new effort to help

Suzy Nurkin helps a child with math in a Heart Math tutoring session at Lansdowne Elementary on Wednesday, Nov. 9, in Charlotte, NC. (Makayla Holder/mholder@charlotteobserver.com)

Community and business leaders on Tuesday announced Tutor Charlotte to help increase the number of volunteer tutors throughout Mecklenburg County.

Tutor Charlotte aims to connect interested volunteers with tutoring organizations, saying help provided to students yields exponential results. Those leading the project include the Augustine Literacy Project – Charlotte, the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council (CELC), Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Heart Math Tutoring, Helps Education Fund and Read Charlotte.

“We have an incredible amount of work to do as a community to help our children recover from the impact of the pandemic on their learning,” Munro Richardson, Read Charlotte executive director, said in a news release. “We hope this effort helps get more citizens of our community than ever to step forward as volunteer tutors. There’s a real opportunity to transform lives and now is the time.”

Academic achievement gaps for CMS’ Black and Hispanic students have widened, a national study released in October showed. Those achievement gaps — particularly in fourth grade — between white and Black and Hispanic students grew by double digits since 2003, according to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Across CMS, 43.3% of all third-graders passed reading exams last year, and 25.1% were college- and career-ready.

GO DEEPER: Student achievement gaps are wider post pandemic. Here’s how CMS plans to close them.

Why Tutor Charlotte?

The groups behind the initiative want to make it easier for tutors to plug into local opportunities and say there are minimal training requirements. They hope to recruit 800 tutors to start.

“For the amount of input you put in every week, the output of growth in these students is exponential,” said Jalen Gilmore, a tutor with Heart Math Tutoring. “That really means a lot to me. These kids actually do look up to you as role models, and they’re excited to see you every week. Even though you’re just spending 30 minutes with each student, it does play a large role in their lives and you can see it.”

Most volunteer tutors commit to a training session and one or two hours per week, a news release said. Volunteers are accepted throughout the school year. Virtual tutoring options are available.

How will CMS benefit?

Tutor Charlotte is part of the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council’s partnership announced earlier this year with CMS, which aims to provide resources to fight learning loss from COVID-19 and other student learning deficiencies.

“The Tutor Charlotte initiative is aligned with our council’s purpose to advocate for impactful solutions that improve Charlotte’s economic vitality, equitable opportunity and quality of life for all,” leadership council chairman Mike Lamach said.

CMS will benefit from expertise, support and resources in areas that include retention and recruitment of teachers, administrators and support staff as well as increased school safety, improved access to physical and mental health services, according to the news release.

Where do I sign up?

Those interested in volunteering as a tutor can easily get connected by visiting the Tutor Charlotte website: www.tutorcharlotte.org.