Close the opportunity gap by providing small group math instruction for our highest need students in order to accelerate their academic growth.

Student Lunches

By, Tim Johnson, Director of Denver Math and Literacy Fellows

In February I had the chance to visit the White House for a briefing on the two year anniversary of the launch of My Brother’s Keeper (MBK).  To learn more about MBK go here.


One of the highlights of the trip was the involvement of kids and having them share their experience with trajectory changing mentors – what our fellows aspire to be each day.  Along those lines the phrase “don’t plan about me without me” really stood out as a great reminder to involve students in planning for program improvements.


With that in mind, when I got back to Denver, I worked with my team to set up a series of lunches with students to hear about their experience in math lab and literacy lab.  Here are some of the early highlights from those ongoing conversations:


Positive Calls 

We emphasize positive calls to parents and guardians within our program as a way to build relationships with families and improve student engagement.  Here’s the research.


Turns out, parents and guardians love these calls.  They love them so much that when their child gets home from school they share the details with their child, siblings and other family members.  Students also shared the initial surprise that their families had that they were hearing from school and it was for a good reason!


Trust and Building Relationships

Another highlight that stood out was that all of the kids we met with shared about how they trusted their fellow and most were comfortable bring outside of school concerns to their fellow.  Students gave examples of seeing fellows at sports events, being coached by fellows and generally seeing the investment in time after school as evidence that their fellow was there because they genuinely cared about them.


One student shard: “My fellow is always positive and encouraging, one day she even complimented my shoes!”


Individual Attention

Another trend came through with comments about how much students enjoyed the small groups and “felt comfortable asking questions” in that setting.  Students also reported that they received the specific help they needed in math and that it connected to what they were learning in their core math class.


There were also some great ideas to improve the program including more support for new fellows in management, more classroom space and requests to be able to eat food and listen to music during math or literacy lab.  I was sure to say I couldn’t make the music and food requests happen.