by Natalie Fall
UWSL Intern

In the uphill climb toward closing the achievement gap for at-risk students, meaningful progress is accomplished through thoughtful and deliberate steps. In the case of Granite Park Jr. High, a UWSL Community School in South Salt Lake, UWSL & partners identified a need and implemented a program to address it – a perfect example of such a step.

DSC_0038This program, Saturday School, is a weekly opportunity for students to get additional time with teachers to improve their skills in Math, Science, and Language. Saturday School was an idea requested by Granite Park Jr. High Principal, Dr. Taran Chun, to target under-performing students and prepare them for CRT testing in these subjects. Granite Park, like the city of South Salt Lake, is home to many refugee and immigrant students. These ELL (English Language Learner) students face a unique set of challenges as they navigate unfamiliar curriculum.

Saturday School called upon school administrators, faculty, volunteers, and organizations from both South Salt Lake and Refugee Youth Promise Partnerships to develop a comprehensive program model to address under-performance. The program is specifically designed to provide additional academic support to improve CRT testing scores by reviewing content and building test-taking skills. To target ELL students, flyers to promote Saturday School were translated to seven different languages including Arabic, Burmese, Karen, Napoli, Farsi, Somali, and Swahili. Buses run to and from the school on Saturdays for the 60-90 students who attend.

I had the opportunity to visit Saturday School last weekend, where I observed teachers and students hard at work on CRT practice tests.  I was particularly impressed by the teachers’ efforts to make concepts applicable to the students’ lives.  They were able to transcend culture barriers by drawing on students’ personal experiences and relating them to the test material.  The atmosphere was welcoming.  In fact, I might even describe it as fun – not necessarily what I expected on an early Saturday morning at a Junior High School.

DSC_0087With CRT testing just around the corner, Saturday School has played an imperative role in ensuring Granite Park’s students reach academic benchmarks, moving each student forward in the cradle to career pipeline.  Granite Park Jr. High demonstrates a commitment to changing the odds through programs like this one! Way to LIVE UNITED!