Marlon Davis
Ever since the Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School received a $400K American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) award last year, Marlon Davis, the school's executive director, has a motto: "You can't throw money at a problem, but you can target and direct money at problems."

The ARRA award enabled the Banneker School, an elementary school for kindergarten through sixth grade, to provide comprehensive tutoring services through the Princeton Review for 40 of its students.

"The stimulus funds were a breath of fresh air," says Davis. "Not only did they allow us to partner with a proven service provider but they also allowed us to provide services for many more students than we could have serviced." Davis adds that two of the school's teachers' jobs were also preserved thanks to the funds.

The mission of the 350-student Banneker School is to provide children with the opportunities they need to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering and math fields. Nearly 75 percent of the student body is African American and the rest are mostly second generation immigrants from Haiti and the Caribbean. Davis estimates that 80 percent of the student body is on free or reduced lunch.

The Princeton Review was looking to enter the elementary school market and is using the Banneker School as a pilot in its program. All indications point to a successful trial.

"The kids are now in their second year of tutoring and Princeton's data shows the program worked," says Davis.

The ARRA funds mean that the students have four hours of tutoring sessions a week. "We met with Princeton Review, spelled out specifically what the kids need help in and Princeton tailored their tutoring to meet our needs," says Davis.

According to Davis, the students in the tutoring program have not only achieved measurable gains on their MCAS scores but they also have greater self esteem. "These kids started off with needs improvement and they are now proficient. That is just from this money," he says.

The improved scores also helped the school move out of a probationary status in the No Child Left Behind act. "That means we can grow," notes Davis. "We are not capped anymore. ARRA helped us with our performance. Our performance leads to growth."

The school already has 25 additional students this year and Davis anticipates that number will go up after the second year of the ARRA-funded tutoring program. In addition to the tutoring, Davis says the school will use the ARRA funds in the second year to provide additional special education services, counseling and psychological evaluations.

"ARRA put us on this path," says Davis. "It's a beautiful thing."