Seven students watched intently as sixth-grade teacher Rosemary Villani gave an after-school math lesson on percentages.
This wasn’t a punishment for the students at Chandler’s San Marcos Elementary School, but a time they said they looked forward to so they could build their math skills.
"I like that it helps me with math problems," said sixth grader Sonia Mireles, 11. "I also like that Ms. Villani tells jokes and makes us laugh."
Across the East Valley, public schools are realizing that some students need more time than a standard school day provides to succeed. As a result, schools have put programs in place to help students learn study skills, improve their grades and raise their confidence.
San Marcos provides math tutoring Tuesdays and Thursdays after school.
"It is exciting when the light bulb goes off and the student gets a math concept," Villani said.
While most of the programs the districts offer are optional, Gilbert’s Personal Responsibility in Daily Effort (PRIDE) program is mandatory for every junior high school student in the district.
The students are given a planner where they write assignments that are due for each hour. At the beginning of each hour, the teachers make sure each student has homework completed, textbooks, paper and anything else needed for the day. If the student has this, they get a "yes" stamp. If they don’t, they get a "no" stamp.
Any "no" stamp results in a ninth-hour detention.
"In ninth hour, they do homework assignments. It’s not a whole hour, but only about 25 minutes, and we provide bus transportation home," said Dave Allison, assistant superintendent for educational services. "Front office administration makes calls to parents that the student is going to be late."
He said students who have responsibilities after school, such as looking after a younger brother or sister, serve their detention during lunch.
But the lunch option is not available for student athletes: They must go to ninth hour detention if they receive a "no" stamp.
"If they have to go to ninth hour on a game day, then they just miss the game and let the team down," Allison said.
Since implementing the program, the percentage of A grades issued in Gilbert has increased from 40.6 percent to 55.4 percent. Also, the school year before the PRIDE program started, 102 students at Gilbert Junior High School had three or more tardies. The first year PRIDE was implemented, there weren’t any students who had three tardies.
At the end of every school year, the PRIDE committee reviews the program and makes sure it’s consistent from campus to campus. In addition, every month each faculty member meets with the principal to discuss the program. Then Allison meets with every principal for feedback.
"This way we can keep an eye on the program throughout the year," Allison said.
So the program isn’t a shock to new seventh-graders, elementary students are introduced to the PRIDE program in the last semester of sixth grade.
"They don’t go to a ninth hour but the material is marked," Allison said. "This has been a great help for when they go into seventh grade."
The program has never been put in writing at the governing board level, but that may be about to change. The board will vote on it in February to make it an official district program.
"The vote will define the program at the board level and give the principals the support they need when a parent or community member says they don’t like the program," Allison said.
The program costs the district $25,000 a year, the biggest expense being transportation after ninth hour, Allison said.
In the Kyrene Elementary School District, extra efforts also are underway to help students succeed.
When the number of Ds and Fs started increasing at Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School, principal Kelly Alexander said something had to be done to help the students at the Ahwatukee Foothills school.
"We had things in place to help but we thought these kiddos needed more support during the day," Alexander said.
They decided to use money from the education sales tax, approved by voters in 2000, to have a teacher help students during the day. Students needing a boost are taken out of an elective class and put into an Academic Intervention Class, where the teacher works with students in small groups.
Before the student is entered into the program, the school gets the parent’s permission, said Nicole Johnson, one of two intervention teachers. Each teacher works part time.
"We keep parents up to date on a weekly or biweekly basis of how their child is doing," Johnson said.
Most often, the students are not doing well in school because they fail to do homework or assignments, Alexander said. The intervention class gets them organized and helps them prioritize.
"Some students receive remedial help such as if they are having trouble with fractions, and they get the extra help and they do OK from then on," Alexander said.
The time students are in the class depends on the individual student.
"Some are in there less than a quarter. They go to the class to learn how to get organized and are allowed to go back to the elective," Alexander said. "Others are in for the remainder of the year."
She added that most of the students in the classes would have had to take summer school or repeat a course but the intervention helps students before it gets to that stage.
Johnson said it is important that students not view the class as punishment. Many times, she said, the students don’t want to exit the program.
"Initially students who are not familiar with the program are apprehensive when they first come in, but it takes less than a week for them to get comfortable in the class," Johnson said. "It is often difficult when students have to exit the class because of the small student-teacher ratio."
The Scottsdale Unified School District offers individual classes or tutor time during lunch or after school for students who need help with their study or organization skills.
Coronado High School offers a Tuesday Night School weekly from 6 to 8 p.m. to make sure students can get the extra help they need if they have to work or help their family during the day.
"We have several avenues — independent tutoring done by teachers before, during or after school," said principal John Biera. "We offer some tutoring during school through our academic specialists."
This is the fourth year Coronado has offered the night school for about 30 students each week, mostly for those seeking help with math and English, Biera said.
"It gets students focused on what they need to do, and has them prioritize their needs," he said, adding that the most important thing is that students ask for help they need.
"Whether it’s organization, or planning, or English or math, they need to ask," Biera said.