Weekly Feature



2017-12-07 / Front Page

Cheektowaga-Sloan learning centers see growth through supportive environment

by ALAN RIZZO
Reporter


Algebra teacher Kelsey Miosi, left, who runs the Academic Learning Center at Cheektowaga-Sloan’s John F. Kennedy High School, helps sophomore Rabsa Sikder with her math homework on Friday. Sikder, who entered the district in March, is one of about 110 students who visit the center daily to get help from teachers, and take advantage of its supportive environment. 
Photo by Sarah McIlhattenPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Algebra teacher Kelsey Miosi, left, who runs the Academic Learning Center at Cheektowaga-Sloan’s John F. Kennedy High School, helps sophomore Rabsa Sikder with her math homework on Friday. Sikder, who entered the district in March, is one of about 110 students who visit the center daily to get help from teachers, and take advantage of its supportive environment. Photo by Sarah McIlhattenPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Now 2 years old, the academic learning centers at Cheektowaga-Sloan’s John F. Kennedy Middle and High schools are continuing to gain in popularity, welcoming approximately double the amount of students per day compared to 2015-16.

Center leaders Kelsey Miosi and Christine Ruffner attribute the success to the environment at the centers, which promotes safety and acceptance of students of all ability levels. All students get help, regardless of their level of preparation or achievement.

“This isn’t a center for just special ed kids or just high achieving kids, or just kids that are struggling,” said Miosi, who runs the high school’s ALC. “Really, the range of abilities, it’s everybody. It’s a mix, and it’s a mix of all grades.”

In a report to Board of Education members on Nov. 21, Miosi and Ruffner indicated that attendance at the middle school’s ALC has jumped from about 35 to 65 students in two years, and participation at the high school’s ALC is more than 100 students per day, after beginning with about 60 two years ago.

Ruffner, who runs the middle school’s ALC, said that in addition to environment, the rises are due to increased coordination with math teachers, who help staff the center along with business and history teachers.

Teachers in other subjects volunteer time at the centers as their schedules allow.

According to Miosi and Ruffner’s report, math is the most popular subject at the centers, with 38 percent of students coming to the middle school’s ALC for math help this year, and 26.9 percent seeking the same help at the high school. The middle school’s number is an increase of 18 percent over last year, and Ruffner attributes that change to the increased coordination.

“The ALC is a support for all subjects but we really want to make sure that [students] are utilizing us for math support,” she said. “It’s just in a coordinated way encouraging them to come up and get math help, so it’s really kind of helped drive our numbers.”

One student seeking that help is sophomore Rabsa Sikder. Entering the district in March, Sikder had only two months to prepare for the geometry and Algebra 1 Regents exams. Seeking help from the ALC, she ultimately scored a 98 and 96 on those exams, respectively, and did an independent study to catch up with course requirements. She credits Miosi with helping her succeed.

“It was almost impossible for me to get through all the curriculum and books and stuff like that, so I decided to come here so that she could teach me,” Sikder said. “She really helped me with that.”

Senior Jonathan Braniecki has been coming to the center regularly for math tutoring since it opened in 2015, and said its atmosphere trumps study hall and his house for getting class work done.

“The environment here is just better,” he said. “There’s no kids yelling. There’s help.”

In addition to academic assistance, students are being challenged through efforts such as a math enrichment program at the middle school.

Ruffner said the program, launched last year, is part of a competition with schools across the country and in 23 countries worldwide, and challenges 35 students to creatively solve open-ended math problems as part of a Math Olympiad team. The work is not typical, and Ruffner hopes to develop perseverance in students as they tackle the unknown.

“Some kids come unglued if they don’t know, and I want to get past that and make them embrace the challenge,” she said. “That skill alone is huge. If you can get to the point where you can persevere and not give up, not get frustrated, that to me is what it’s all about.”

Overall, the ALCs have become popular enough that Miosi and Ruffner have had to cap daily attendance to preserve the quality of the help they provide, and stressed that the centers shouldn’t be seen as a place to socialize.

Established in 2015, the centers were created as places that middle and high school students in the district could choose to visit to get individualized assistance from teachers, as well as participate in peer tutoring, online grade recovery, and other programs.

To learn more about Cheektowaga-Sloan’s Academic Learning Centers, visit their page on the district’s website at www.cheek towagasloan.org/Page/608.

email: arizzo@beenews.com

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