Students in need of extra help to score well enough on the ACT college admission test to avoid taking remedial coursework are the beneficiaries of a new preparatory course at Watson Chapel High School that began March 5.
The program is being funded through Arkansas Works, an initiative started in 2008 by Gov. Mike Beebe to boost economic development in the state through education and job training, according to Furonda Brasfield, a career coach at the high school whose position is also funded through the initiative.
“The students we take are those who are in danger of having to complete college remediation courses because they don’t yet have a 19 on the ACT,” Brasfield said. “We are going to have a total of 24 hours of instruction with the students which breaks down to meeting Monday through Thursday for three weeks from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.”
Brasfield said that the program has 13 seniors participating.
The students are instructed in math and science on Mondays and Wednesdays by Mark Smith and in English and reading on Tuesdays and Thursdays by Edna Allen, according to Brasfield.
Brasfield said that successful completion of the course is rewarded by taking the ACT at no fee.
“They normally cost $34,” Brasfield said.
“The students have homework every night and the next day the instructor goes over the homework and gives test taking tips,” Brasfield said. “We teach the students the structure of the test and provide them with test taking skills including how to pace themselves, to skim and to read for content.”
Brasfield said that the course includes a cash incentive program that rewards students for score improvement and for responsible course attendance.
“If a student comes to every class, doesn’t leave early and behaves well then they are given $350 at the end of the course,” Brasfield said. “In addition to the $350, if a student increases their composite score or their score on an individual subject area by three points they will get an additional $150. If they increase their score by two points on the composite they will get $125. If they increase their score by two points in a subject area they will get $100. Improving their score by one point on the composite will get them $75 and one point on a subject area is $50.”
Brasfield said that the money is not paid to the students until the ACT test scores are received.
“Now if they do come in late or have absences then we are going to take money away from them,” Brasfield said. “We don’t accept absences. After the first absence we take away $25 and after the second absence we take $50 out of what they can earn. We speak to them after the second absence and ask them if they are committed to the program. After a third absence they are dismissed from the program and don’t get anything.”
Brasfield said that there are similar penalties for being late, disciplinary issues and not doing homework.
Brasfield said that the program began in the state two years ago and has been gradually expanded.
“The program was developed by Sylvan [Learning],” Brasfield said. “Sylvan provided the training material for the course and trained the teachers.”
Brasfield said that she and her counterpart, career coach Candice Jones, supervise the program.
“We handle the W-9 forms, payroll forms, disciplinary issues, lateness and tardiness,” Brasfield said.