Project PASS Deemed a Success by YSU, City Schools

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Officials and teachers from Youngstown City Schools and Youngstown State University gathered Wednesday at William Holmes McGuffey Elementary to announce that second- and third-grade students in YSU’s Project PASS program made significant gains in reading proficiency.

Project PASS — Penguin Assistants for Student Success — began in early 2015 with the goal of improving the reading skills of students in the city schools and the pedagogy of teacher candidates by pairing second- and third-graders with tutors from Beeghly College of Education. A study by the Ohio Education Research Center at Ohio State University found that student participants in the program were 29% more likely to meet the state’s third-grade reading requirements.

Students who spent two or more semesters in the program made the largest gains. Students tutored in the spring of third grade met the requirements of the Third Grade Guarantee four times greater than those from a control sample who did not.

“At first it was about how we could be helpful to Youngstown City Schools,” said YSU President Jim Tressel. “But like anything that’s good, it’s mutually beneficial.”

Education majors in the program received hands-on learning along with the students they helped, many of whom had never received tutoring.

Kylee Shaffer, a third-grade teacher at W.H. McGuffey, spent two semesters in Project PASS, tutoring children an hour each week. Shaffer and other students spent considerable time learning about the program before they were assigned as tutors.

“The first day I met with a student it was hard to build that relationship,” Schaffer said. “After a couple of sessions and getting the students to know me, they were quickly motivated and they loved coming to tutoring. They loved reading books that involved things they were interested in, writing about the stories we were reading and doing some of the game activities we played.”

YSU views the partnership as a model other regions can follow, and recommended its replication in other parts of the state, the university said.

Efforts to improve students’ reading skills went beyond tutoring. The 2nd & 7 Foundation of Columbus donated thousands of books to children and their families in the program.

“It’s impacted the young people. It has impacted their homes,” Tressel said.

Some 21,000 books were handed out to the students to take home. “Can you imagine?” Tressel asked. “These students, some of which didn’t have many books, if any, and now there’s 21,000 books out there in our community.”

Shaffer’s experience in the program influences her teaching. “This year I actually incorporated some of the lessons that I came up with when I was tutoring into my classroom lesson plan,” she said, “whether in small groups or large. Being a teacher now, I’ve gained a whole new perspective on Project PASS.”

Pictured: Charles Howell, dean of the Beeghly College of Education and YSU, listens as YSU President Jim Tressel outlines program’s successes at a press event Tuesday.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.