Amherst Magazine

The Achievement Gap Next Door

By Emily Gold Boutilier

Yutaka Tamura ’94 founded Excel Academy to bridge the achievement gap between wealthy and low-income students. The Center for Community Engagement at Amherst is also addressing that gap, sending undergraduates to tutor and mentor nearby children and teens. Through CCE partnerships with local groups, Amherst College students serve as tutors and mentors in two of the state’s neediest cities, Springfield and Holyoke, including through El Arco Iris, an after-school program, and Putnam Leading Achievement Now, which helps teens who’ve failed the state tests required for high school graduation.

The largest CCE partnership is with the Pipeline Project, in which Amherst College students tutor at-risk children in the Amherst public schools and, in the summer, help plan and teach the access-to-college Pipeline Scholars Program. CCE Director Molly Mead is proud that more than half of Amherst tutors work with the same child for more than one semester, much higher than the national average of about 20 percent.

This summer, nine Amherst College students will intern with the Pipeline Scholars Program. As part of their work, they will help teach a reading curriculum developed by Pamela Allyn ’84, founder and executive director of LitLife, a literacy education program that trains K-12 teachers nationwide. Allyn, who serves on the CCE board, has coached Pipeline teachers and interns. In addition, the CCE has funded LitLife training sessions for faculty at the town’s Crocker Farm Elementary (whose principal is Michael Morris ’00), where close to 60 percent of students are classified as low income.