A Program of Promise That Really Delivers
An extended-learning program in one of Boston's inner-city schools has improved math and reading test scores, and attendance rates
IN between periods at the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury, Mass., students are told to walk SFQ (single file quietly) to their next classes. This day, however, they are managing a single line but not without a few giggles and playful shoves.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Timilty students can't be entirely blamed for their restlessness. Four days each week, they spend an additional 90 minutes in classes compared with other Boston public-school students. In an extended-learning program called Project Promise, students get an added dosage of academics and attention.
This is a school with a different approach to public urban education. Set in the middle of a low-income neighborhood in Boston's minority community, Timilty offers a ray of hope for Boston's inner-city school children. Besides its extended-day program, the school offers an antiviolence program, a comprehensive academics curriculum, and a dedicated teaching staff.
``We try to make learning fun,'' says Timilty Principal Roger Harris. ``I insist that teachers be creative and that students experience success.''
In 1989, it was cited by the United States Education Department as being an exemplary school and has received several local, state, and national awards in recent years.
Back in the early 1980s, Timilty was considered one of the worst public schools in Boston.
With its high suspension rates and low test scores, it was labeled an overall low-achieving city school.
But since Project Promise began in 1987, attendance rates have gone up, math and reading test scores have improved, and the suspension rate has decreased dramatically.
Timilty is a citywide magnet school, which means it is open to any Boston public-school student. It has an ethnically diverse population of 529 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, with most students coming from low-income families.
Under Boston's school-choice plan, Timilty is the most frequently selected middle school in the city, Harris says.
Parents say they like what Timilty has to offer.
``Academically, I am very happy with the program,'' says Natalie Carithers, a parent and co-chair of the Timilty School parents council. ``Last year my son was in the sixth grade and I had a problem getting him to study. Now, when I come home from work, he is already studying, and he is studying all the way until his homework is due. That is being instilled through the Timilty,'' Ms. Carithers says.
Academics are highly valued here, and the key to learning is developing good writing and reading skills.
Students must do writing assignments for all classes and are expected to submit seven writing projects per month, Harris says.
The class day ends with DEAR (Drop Everything And Read), a 15-minute silent-reading period participated in by the entire school.
Students also participate in a unique pen-pal program, called Promising Pals. Youngsters write at least four letters over a three-month period to a variety of people in the Boston community who have interesting careers. Students and their adult ``pals'' meet for the first time at a breakfast reception in the spring.
The school's antiviolence program helps youngsters cope with their surroundings. In 1990, the school declared itself a ``violence-free zone'' and has since initiated several programs to teach students nonviolent attitudes.