A small New York City based tutoring organization, Top Honors has provided math tutoring for underserved middle school students for the past 10 years. Top Honors’ program runs from September to May each year offering 2-hour tutoring sessions on Saturdays (~30 sessions) and supplemental sessions on Tuesday nights to help young students catch up to where they need to be. They take students who have fallen behind in their normal studies and catch them back up, starting at their individual skill level. Different from your ordinary tutoring centers, Top Honors pairs each student with the same tutor each week, and they work together on a specially-designed 14 unit curriculum.
As an organization, Top Honors believes in providing tailored education and creating comfortable learning environments. They also mean business. Top Honors tests each applicant and only accepts the students that would receive the most benefits from the curriculum. They also do not tolerate absences, and require the students to be there each session without fail. This places serious commitments on the students, but also on the adult volunteers who must sign up for 50-60 hours of Saturday tutoring. Top Honors also offers their students incentives for effort and achievement with their Thinc$ reward program. Many of the prizes are furnished through companies offering discounted prices on their merchandise, such as steeply discounted iPods from Apple.
The result? It works. Based on their internal testing, their students average better than 50% improvement on their math scores after a year in the program. We nerds love the feel and the ideals of this dedicated nonprofit. Their innovative study plan as well as their combination of strict rules paired with fun incentives clearly helps young students improve their math skills and become the nerds we know they can be.
Other people have come to notice these results as well, and this has helped to secure grant money from Columbia University as well as a host of other corporate sponsors. Top Honors is planning to spread into new locations next fall and to grow as much as it can, without compromising its fundamentals, in the future. Even so, Top Honors is still hurting for money and support. They had to turn away both students and volunteers last year simply because they did not have the financial resources to back their programs. We love the work Top Honors is doing and hope they receive the support they need to help these kids catch up in school.