The Texas Southern University Back to Basic Summer Institute, funded in large part by a grant from Chevron, ran from June 13-24, 2011 during the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. daily. Houston area school teachers participated in literature and technology seminars during the morning sessions and taught what they’d learned to their students in the afternoon sessions. During the morning sessions, TSU faculty and staff taught test-taking skills to high school students and engaged them in drill and practice for the ACT/SAT.
In the first week of the seminar, Ms. Sameera Rizvi taught technology. In the second week, Prof. Donna Kimble taught literature, while working with teachers and students to integrate the study of literature with the application of various technologies. During the lunch hour, distinguished guest speakers, including TSU faculty, local artists, and community leaders, inspired and motivated the group by sharing enriching lessons from their life experiences.
One of the unique aspects of the institute is that Houston area teachers selected and agreed to mentor gifted and talented students from their schools to participate in the institute. We believe that it is important for teachers to nurture their students inside and outside of the classroom and for the students to remain under their teachers’ tutelage during the institute. When these students return to their schools, we expect that that the teachers will continue to mentor them. Back to Basics Summer Institute staff will also remain in contact with the students through their completion of high school, with the aim of recruiting these students to Texas Southern University or assisting them with applications to other universities of their choice.
Back to Basics Summer Institute staff members were responsible for pre and post-assessment as well as administering surveys to teachers, students, and their parents. This type of rigorous evaluation provides data that will increase the effectiveness of the institute.
Throughout the program approximately 50 students and10 teachers participated. 95% of the students had perfect attendance. Approximately 80% of the students were of African-American origin and 20% were Hispanic. Below is a summary of the results.
Summary of the ACT/SAT Prep Workshop
One of the main objectives of the program was to enhance college readiness through College Admissions test practices and preparation. The students were given sample ACT tests in addition to learning techniques and successful strategies and methods for achieving objectives.
In a comparison of the ACT test scores, on average, students achieved an accuracy score of 68% on the English portion of the pre-test (test administered prior to the ACT workshop) and 81% in the post-test (test administered at the end of the ACT workshop). Similarly, the pre-test results for the Math section were 44% correct while those for the post-test were 80% correct.
As demonstrated by the above figures, the students showed a significant improvement in reading and verbal skills. This acquired skill set alone can help students score higher on standardized tests such as the SAT and the ACT.
Summary of the English Language Program
The program focused on developing vocabulary, as well as the correct pronunciation/enunciation of words from a list of high frequency words they may encounter on the ACT/SAT test. Additionally, students’ writing skills were boosted through drills reinforcing sentence grammaticism, including the meaning of punctuation and its proper use.
Summary of the Mathematics Program
The average scaled score on the pre-test was 70%, the average achievement score based on all mathematics activities at the end of the term was 81%. While these gains were achieved during the math portion of the program, achievement was reinforced through vocabulary development as well as the enthusiasm provided by the speakers, the teachers and the program coordinator. Students were highly motivated to make progress as documented in program activities and assessments.
Summary of the Technology Program
Students were taught principles of using social media and other Web 2.0 platforms, PowerPoint, website design, and digital storytelling (including podcasting and blogging). The students’ culminating efforts included a project-based presentation to their peers, teachers, family and friends. The presentation integrated concepts of English language arts, science, mathematics, and performing arts, using the newly learned technology applications as the vehicle of display.
Summary of Teacher Professional Development
Teachers were provided professional development in the area of technology and English language arts. Additionally, teachers were present during the guest lectures and participated in the dramatic and performing arts as a teacher group. They facilitated a group of students each day of the seminar, reinforcing learning objectives that were shared during teacher professional development. Teachers guided students through the development of their technology projects and participated in the completion ceremony at the end of the program.
Students, teachers, and parents across the board were very enthusiastic about the institute, as evidenced by feedback provided during a survey. Students commented on the exceptional SAT/ACT prep as well as the exposure to the different computer applications. Most said they would return to the program next summer. Students were also asked - based on their Back to Basics experience – if they would consider attending Texas Southern University. Many said they would consider attending TSU, and several indicated that they had already begun the application process.
Teachers commented that the computer classes were outstanding, stating that they would incorporate what they had learned into their regular classes. Parents commented that they had seen significant positive changes in their child’s behavior as well as an increased interest in reading, math and higher education, in general.