SCS votes to add “City Year” mentors to reach struggling students

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A Shelby County School Board vote added Shelby County to the list of communities turning to "near peers" to reach struggling students.

The Shelby County School Board approved a contract with City Year, a nonprofit that sends AmeriCorps members, who graduated high school or college, into high poverty areas.

"It can affect all kinds of things, like behavior and of course academics as well," said School Board Member Chris Caldwell.

The School Board approved funding for eight City Year AmeriCorps members who will reach out to those students with poor attendance, bad behavior, or who are failing in English or math.

The School Board approved a four-year deal with City Year from this summer until summer 2020.

It is a total financial commitment of $400,000. That is $100,000 per year.

City Year data shows that during the 2014-2015 school year, of those sixth- to ninth-grade students who were off-track to graduate, 57 percent improved from a D or F in English and language arts to an A, B or C.

"Teachers can monitor the rest of the classroom, and if they have some children that may need interventions or a little extra help, then they can have these people act as teacher's assistants," said Caldwell.

Board member Miska Clay Bibbs said she has seen the program work elsewhere.

"I saw that the 'near peer' kind of mentor pairing would be very great for some of our students. I think they're able to probably influence in positive ways that sometimes teachers may or may not are able to do."

City Year did not make anyone involved in its Shelby County program available to interview with WREG Wednesday about how it plans to make its impact.

SCS Board Chair Teresa Jones voted against the measure, citing concerns about committing to additional costs before the budget is finalized.

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