Fathers as Tutors Help Boys Shape Up: Supporters Laud Program for Building Academic Achievement

Article excerpt

ANTIOCH, Calif. - African-American fathers in this gritty East Bay suburb of San Francisco refused to take a hands-off approach last spring when test scores showed their elementary and middle school boys lagging far behind their peers in writing and math.

Instead, they started a unique private tutoring program that after just a few months has teachers agog with the improvements in the boys' academic performance and attitude. The men call themselves the African American Academic Achievement Committee, or Four AC.

New test scores won't reflect the results until next spring, but already administrators from other school districts around the Southwest are coming to observe how the fathers work with their children and others during after school and Saturday sessions.

"It's working beautifully," says Barbara Ewing, principal of Black Diamond Middle School, where the tutoring program began with just one pupil in a private home last July. Even some sons of the original 15 male volunteer tutors refused to show up at first.

"When my teachers go to take a look now, they are amazed at the number of kids who are there who are focused and the number of men who come on a regular basis to work with them," Mrs. Ewing said.

Some of the black volunteers don't even have sons, but merely wanted to help give black youths a boost in motivation and skills. "First and foremost, these kids have got to get an education," said volunteer Marcus Neal, who tutors reading. Mr. Neal has a 6-year-old daughter. "I'm not interested just in my own child's future."

The Antioch program has flourished with no assistance from school administrators or churches and only moved to a school building when it became too large for living rooms and kitchens.

Mrs. Ewing said she believes the children's skills and performances are improving because of the individual attention they get in the tutoring sessions, which now regularly draw 65 or more pupils and 20-plus tutoring parents. …