Last spring, the Henderson-Hopkins School found itself with 85 additional students on campus: twice a week, 55 undergraduates and 30 graduate students from Johns Hopkins University visited the school East Baltimore Public School to serve as math tutors for grades four through eight.
The Henderson-Hopkins Math Tutorial Program began in fall 2022, with 53 tutors serving nearly three-quarters of all eligible students. Since then, the initiative has grown exponentially, with approximately 40 Hopkins tutors returning to their roles this fall and planning to hire 60 additional tutors for the next school year.
The idea for the program came about during a visit to the school by JHU President Ron Daniels. Speaking to Henderson-Hopkins Principal Peter Kannam, Daniels asked what could be done to address learning losses caused by the pandemic.
“I said, ‘I would set up a way to get Johns Hopkins students involved and get them to teach our students in math,’” Kannam recalled. “And President Daniels said, ‘Let’s make this happen.’ That’s the kind of person President Daniels is.”
According to the first cohort of tutors, each visit with their Henderson-Hopkins students follows the same routine: After arriving in university-provided Lyfts, tutors go inside to meet their groups, consisting of two to three students. Then, after a few minutes of catch-up time, lessons begin, with each student receiving personalized attention as they review math concepts and solve practice problems. Some weeks also feature special themes, such as Culture Week, where students and tutors were encouraged to share some of their heritage with each other.
“Part of my duty as a tutor was not only to solve the math problems and solve the equations, but also to listen to (my students) when they needed to confide in someone.”
Henderson-Hopkins Mathematics Teacher
One aspect that differentiates this tutoring program from previous Henderson-Hopkins initiatives is timing. Rather than keeping students after school or requiring them to arrive early, tutoring takes place during the school day, between students’ other learning blocks. By structuring the day this way, the program can better retain its college-age tutors, who often have other commitments outside of school hours. As a result, students receive more consistent instruction and support.
According to Charlotte Egginton, a Krieger School student who specializes in writing seminars, maintaining reliable tutors also allows for deeper connections within the program.
“I have seen many examples of extremely positive relationships being established between students and tutors,” she said. “Part of my duty as a tutor was not only to solve math problems and solve equations, but also to listen to (my students) when they needed to confide in someone. Because we “We’re younger, we have the opportunity to form a close group. A connection like that.”
Liz Jenkins, program manager, described the arrangement as a win-win for students and tutors. While Baltimore City students receive additional academic support, improving their skills, test scores, and attitudes toward math, Hopkins tutors have the opportunity to give back to their community, building connections closer with their city.
“(Henderson-Hopkins students) looked forward to being able to have tutoring every day,” Jenkins said. “(The tutors) created relationships where (students) felt comfortable asking questions and getting clarification, and I think they really saw the value and benefit of math.”
Jenkins emphasized that this additional support is especially important amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has negatively impacted the education of many K-12 students.
“These learning losses are everywhere,” Jenkins said. “Students across the country are about a year and a half behind, especially in math… This program is designed specifically to address that problem.”
“Our students know that there are students at Johns Hopkins who care about them. They’ve built relationships with them, so they start to see themselves as students, too. That’s really important.”
Director of Henderson-Hopkins School
To better reverse these losses, the Henderson-Hopkins math curriculum plans to expand its scope for the upcoming school year. In addition to increasing the total number of tutors and expanding the initiative to the school’s third-grade class, students will also receive lessons four times a week instead of two. This will double the amount of tutoring available, increasing student participation from approximately 24 hours per semester to 50+. By engaging in what Kannam calls “high-dose tutoring,” these students will be able to learn and retain math even more effectively.
And, according to Kannam, the program works.
“Our students’ math skills are improving,” he said. “But there are other immeasurable benefits as well. Our students know that there are students at Johns Hopkins who care about them. They have built relationships with them, so they begin to see themselves as students. It’s really important.”
But Henderson-Hopkins students aren’t the only ones with the chance to learn something new. For many tutors, this program also offers the opportunity to discover things about themselves.
“Because of this work, I decided to pursue a career in teaching,” said tutor Xiaoxiao Ma, a graduate student at the Whiting School of Engineering. “I feel accomplished when I see my students succeed. No matter how big or small it is, when they answer their questions correctly or correct their mistakes, I am very happy for them.”
Applications for next year’s tutors are already open. To know more, JHU students can log on SMILE and search for job 12583. No prior tutoring experience is required.