“In music class, I feel more relaxed and safe than in my classes during the school day. The tutors help me do all of my homework and I understand math better. I also behave better in all of my classes.” -6th grade program participant
Historically, students in urban communities have been outperformed academically by their high-income peers. Students in urban schools are entering high school unprepared, especially in the area of mathematics.
According to the California Department of Education, in the Los Angeles Unified School District during the 2010-2011 school year, only 31% of 8th graders scored “proficient” or above in Algebra I (a score of “proficient” indicates that the student is ready for the next level of instruction), meaning most 8th graders take Algebra I again in 9th grade. Of those repeating Algebra I freshman year of high school in 2011, only 13% scored proficient or above.
Significance: Studies have found three main predictors of whether or not students will graduate high school in 4 years and will complete the basic college entrance requirements determined by the state of California, also known as “A-G Requirements.” These predictors include: poor performance in middle school, and failing Algebra I in both 8th and 9th grade.
Short-term consequences: Students that perform poorly in middle school are three times more likely to either drop out of high school, or to graduate without meeting “A-G Requirements.”
Long-term consequences: Each year, over 35,000 students graduate from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Just over half of these students have met the minimum requirements of a four-year college or university. The 17,000 unqualified students will earn an average of $26,000 less per year than their graduate counterparts (U.S. Census Bureau).
Our goal is to go beyond providing a safe alternative to being home alone, and to give these students a structured and engaging curriculum that maximizes the strength of each individual in order to help create a positive academic self-concept and initiate a desire to learn. In order to do this, we offer music education as well as academic support.
- Music & Art. Our program is the only time of day during which students can participate in arts education (LALA is unable to provide art classes during the school day). Music adds a fun, creative component to our students’ daily school curriculum, which is crucial for the development of a well-rounded individual. Music instruction provides students with basic tools and skills to continue to pursue music in high school and/or college should they choose to do so. Students receive a mix of private and group lessons from the lead instructor as well as volunteers. Instruments offered include guitar, bass guitar, percussion, keyboard, vocals, trumpet, saxophone, flute, violin and marimba. In addition to music, our Lead Academic Tutor/Art Instructor provides students with of instruction in visual art, including drawing, painting and photography. This is a new addition in the 2015-2016 school year that we are very excited about because we are able to provide students with more opportunities to engage in the arts. Students that are able to attend every day receive up to six hours of music/art instruction per week, with additional time spent practicing alone or with a friend. By providing a positive and engaging art & music curriculum that supports learning, friendship and autonomy, we will give students a reason to come to school and increase attendance rates that are crucial to student success. This is one of the few times throughout the day in which students have a choice about how they would like to spend their time.
- Academic tutoring. To support the majority of our students that are below grade level, we provide individualized tutoring, based on the particular needs of each student. This increases their chances of success in middle school, which is a predictor of high school graduation. Students receive tutoring from our lead academic tutor, program director, and volunteers. Students that are able to attend every day receive at least five hours of tutoring and homework help per week.
- Mentoring/Socio-Emotional Development. Experienced staff and volunteers provide a safe and nurturing environment in which all students are recognized for their unique strengths and talents, increasing self-esteem and self-efficacy during the crucial adolescent period. Students develop close relationships with staff and volunteers. Some students spend more time with Everybody Deserves Music staff than any other adults in their lives and we value relationships just as much as the other aspects of our program. Socio-emotional skills, known as “soft skills,” emphasized in our program include: cooperation, interpersonal skills, empathy, resilience and creative problem-solving. Homework help and tutoring is a crucial part of our program that takes place every day. Staff members and volunteers not only help students complete homework, but take the time to communicate with all teachers at the Los Angeles Leadership Academy in order to ensure that we are meeting the diverse needs of each individual. However, in the 21st Century, good grades and technical skills are not enough. Being focused on our students’ academic success is extremely important in our program, but we equally value their socio-emotional development. Students need to develop creativity, problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills, grit, and optimism in order to succeed in higher education and/or the workforce. Students are often found teaching each other music or helping one another with homework. Participating in a music ensemble requires cooperation, patience and understanding.
Making sure our students feel good about school and remain engaged is our strategy of ensuring their long-term success. Children that do not know what it feels like to belong always have a place in our classroom. Students feel confident once they realize they can be successful in school and learn to play an instrument, but the aspect that makes them want to come back every day is the loving community we have built. Knowing our program will be there the next day gives our students a reason to come to school.