Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today announced an investment that will double an individualized, math tutorial program to serve an additional 800 students in CPS high schools next year. SAGA Innovations (formerly Match tutoring) is a tutoring and mentoring program designed to improve academic outcomes for at-risk students while keeping them safe and in school. Since this high-intensity intervention began serving students across several CPS high schools two years ago, SAGA has demonstrated its ability to help students pass core math requirements, succeed in school, and stay on track to graduate.
“The SAGA tutoring program is designed to tackle two of our most urgent priorities: improving student outcomes and keeping our youth safe,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “A high school diploma is not only a necessity for success in the 21st century, but it is also a proven measure in preventing youth violence. By expanding the program and removing hurdles to success in high school, we can ensure that more of our students are on a path to graduation and success afterwards.”
Next year, SAGA will expand its reach, doubling the number of students being served to 1,600 youth across 13 high schools, up from 600 students in 2013. Students who have fallen behind grade level or need additional academic supports are eligible to participate in SAGA, where they work with tutors each day to build foundational math skills while receiving individualized support tailored to their unique academic and learning needs. By remediating math skill deficits and individualizing instruction, SAGA aims to help youth re-engage with regular classroom instruction and succeed in their core math classes, which are critical for staying on track for graduation.
The University of Chicago Education Lab’s rigorous evaluation, in partnership with CPS, has shown that this tutorial model greatly improves students’ math test scores and math course grades and reduces students’ math and non-math course failures. In the University of Chicago evaluation, the program’s benefits were equivalent to closing nearly a third of the nationwide achievement gap in math test scores between white and black students, in just one year.
“Research shows that failure to complete core math classes is a key driver of high school dropout in Chicago,” said Chief Education Officer Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “Given the importance of strong math skills in the 21st century, investments in proven programs like SAGA are critical to meeting the unique needs of each student and ensuring they are prepared to graduate high school and succeed beyond our doors.”
The same rigorous evaluation by the University of Chicago and CPS also revealed that participation also improved student math test scores by the equivalent of an extra one to two years of math growth, over and above what the typical American high school student learns in one year.
“We are greatly encouraged by CPS’ leadership in expanding a program proven to dramatically improve academic outcomes for students from some of our city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods,” said Roseanna Ander, Executive Director of UChicago Education Lab. “SAGA’s impact shows it is not too late or too difficult to improve schooling outcomes for adolescents who have fallen years behind. We look forward to working closely with CPS and SAGA as they scale this important program. What we learn will have implications for Chicago and every district across the country.”
The program's expansion in SY 16-17 is possible with Title 1 federal funding and a private investment, for a $5 million total investment in an evidence-based strategy proven to help young people succeed.
SAGA, which is already serving youth in eight district-run neighborhood high schools, will continue to serve students in some of the highest need high schools in Chicago in the coming academic year. These schools include: Amundsen High School, Bogan High School, Bowen High School, Chicago Vocational Career Academy (CVCA), Harlan High School, Little Village High School Campus, Kelvyn Park High School, and Wells High School. The projected expansion will bring this intensive academic support to an additional five schools next year, bringing the total to 13 neighborhood high schools across the city.
“There have been few success stories of interventions capable of improving academic outcomes for youth from low-income backgrounds once they reach middle school or high school,” said Alan Safran, President and Co-founder of SAGA Innovations. “By working closely with CPS, we intend to develop in our participants both the academic and non-academic skills that will lift their trajectory to success in school and in life.”
To help students build math skills, catch up to grade level, and re-engage with regular classroom instruction, SAGA tutors provide one hour of tutoring to 9th and 10th grade students, as a class during the regular school day. Each tutor works with two students at a time, enabling tutors to individualize instruction to meet their students’ evolving needs and to develop meaningful relationships. In addition to the daily interaction with students, tutors call home each week to update families on student progress and keep them aware of the successes and needs of their children. The daily, in-school work of SAGA tutors also offers additional support to a schools’ math department and regular classroom teachers, by coordinating with teachers to align content, targeting the core math skills students need, and supporting students who are struggling with their traditional grade-level instruction.
Today’s announcement builds on a larger portfolio of efforts designed to help CPS reach a graduation rate of 85 percent by 2019—a commitment made by Mayor Emanuel in his second term. In addition to providing support to CPS schools and math teachers as they strive to achieve academic gains and meet the varied needs of their students, this program, alongside other city initiatives, holds promise for keeping youth safe and on a path to success. Earlier this month, Mayor Emanuel announced a significant expansion of his One Summer Chicago program, growing it to serve nearly 30,000 youths with meaningful employment this summer. By expanding mentoring, jobs and skill building opportunities for youth, and by investing in programs that can keep youth engaged in school and connected to their school communities, the City of Chicago will provide youth with not only an alternative to the streets, but with opportunities for a bright and productive future.
The expansion was approved today by the Chicago Board of Education at its May 2016 Board Meeting.