Achievement Connections: Bridging the algebra gap for local high school students

A new education initiative in Madison was launched this fall with an ambitious goal, and UW-Madison students have been asked play a big role.

Year after year, Algebra 1 proves to be one of the most difficult classes for area high school students. And passing algebra is the single largest indicator that a student will graduate high school.

Enter, Achievement Connections: A program that pairs volunteers from UW-Madison and the community to partner with local high school students for one-on-one algebra tutoring. The student and tutor will remain paired for at least one semester, building a trusting relationship that program leaders hope will stretch beyond math.

“Students will certainly benefit from additional help in math,” Achievement Connection Campus Coordinator Jason Burke said. “But these students will also benefit from a tutor who is there consistently and a tutor they can build trust with.”

Achievement Connections hopes to reach 400 students in Madison and Middleton high schools. To make that possible, the program needs over 300 volunteer tutors and it’s looking for UW-Madison students to fill about half that need.

Jason Burke, an AmeriCorp member with Achievement Connections and the Morgridge Center for Public Service, has been tasked with finding at least 150 student volunteers. In just six weeks, 40 UW-Madison students have already signed up.

“The response from UW students so far has been great,” Burke said. “I have new students interested in volunteering reaching out to me every day at this point.”

Any interested student should contact Jason at Potential tutors will be asked to pass a basic algebra test. If they pass that test, they will then be trained and matched with a student in a local high school 2-3 hours each week.

Although the Achievement Connections program is focused on a very specific indicator of success, the program is a response to the wider racial and ethnic education disparities in the Madison area. In 2012-13, white students in the Madison Metropolitan School District graduated at a rate of 87.5 percent, while that numbers stands at 68.8% for Hispanic and Latino students and 54.1 percent for African-American students.

Achievement Connections is a partnership between the United Way of Dane County, AmeriCorps, Madison Metropolitan School District, Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District and the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

Learn more about Achievement Connections here.