Elevating DDSB Black Students to Success

Posted On Thursday November 05, 2020
Grade 8 student Aleyah from Altona Forest Public School can be viewed at the bottom half of the computer screen as she engages with her Elevate and Expand tutor Desiree Johnson during their first session.

The Durham Black Educators’ Network launched a pilot tutoring program to support students who self-identify as Black

Students and staff had to get used to a new way of engaging and learning at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Durham Black Educators’ Network (DBEN) noticed that this was not an easy transition for some students.

DBEN was offered funding from Durham District School Board’s (DDSB) Student Success team to develop a pilot virtual tutoring program called Elevate & Expand: Coaching for Excellence. Within one week of promoting the program, 160 students had signed up. The program is for students who self-identify as Black in Grades 6 to 12. Students will receive three hours of tutoring in various subjects as needed, after being matched with a tutor.

Vice Principal at Ajax High School and DBEN member Alicia Russell said that they found that many Black students were not successful when they were learning remotely in addition to some who had individual education plans. “We thought, what could we do? We can’t physically go to them. But, they are lacking that one-on-one support and connection from an adult. Then we thought why not use that funding, and offer complimentary tutoring for those families that need it.”

Principal at Ajax High School and Former DBEN Chair Eleanor McIntosh added that, “The program is supported by data that was gathered this summer by a collective of Black community organizations in the Durham Region. “We did a survey and we got a great response rate. One of the huge needs and desires, was for tutoring,” explained McIntosh.  

As a result, DBEN started to recruit tutors and develop the program. Currently there are 11 tutors and they are a mix of teachers in the Durham, Toronto and teacher’s college candidates from Trent University or Ontario Tech. There are also opportunities for Grade 12 students to participate and gain community volunteer hours.

Positive Mindset

“In the Elevate and Expand program, it is about student growth and mindset, which has been proven to positively correlate to student achievement. The program is built on the foundation of Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy, which means that our first step in ensuring the success of our tutees is to develop a rapport with them to determine their individual strengths and needs,” shared Desiree Johnson, Elevate and Expand Tutor and Teacher Candidate from Ontario Tech. “Ultimately, I feel the success of the program will be when a student has developed their learning skills and a positive mindset to know they can succeed and overcome obstacles.”

Aleyah is a Grade 8 student at Altona Forest Public School and she recently had her first session with her tutor Desiree. “I’m trying to get a better understanding of application questions and how to achieve and maintain a better academic grade,” explained Aleyah. “It feels great to have someone outside of school helping me.”  

The program officially launched on October 27th and will continue to the end of the 2020/2021 school year. For more information on how to support or donate to the program email: durhamblackeducators@gmail.com