August 28, 2009

Program that pays students to be tutored stirs controversy

By Amy Johnston, KVUE News, originally published on Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The results are in for a program that pays kids to be tutored. But paying students to study is not without controversy.

Marisa Seene spent the spring of 2009 as a tutor for a small pilot program called TIPS (Tutor Incentive Program). Sixteen students from Austin’s Eastside Memorial High School took part. "Something about the classroom atmosphere made them want to tune out and maybe want to go to sleep or talk. And when they were in tutoring, they didn’t have that choice. They had someone sitting right next to them forcing them to really get involved and think about the math and answer the questions," said Seene.

Nine of the students stayed in the program all year. Here’s how those Algebra I students performed: At the start of the fall semester, 56 percent of students were passing. At end of the semester, the number rose to 67 percent. By spring, 78 percent of students passed. In all, 89 percent were passing at the end of the course.

But the program was controversial because the students were paid $6 an hour to be tutored. With a 6 hour a week commitment, students earned on average $200 a semester. Former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd spearheaded the program and says it’s appropriate to pay kids because it works. "Remember this is the lowest socio-economic area of our city; and a lot of these kids need to work to help support their families. But they also need more time to study. And this was a way to accomplish both," said Todd. Plus, Seene says this program is aimed at a crucial group of students

"Math classes build — so if you can do really well in elementary algebra — your first year of algebra — that’s going to help you in geometry and your second algebra," she said. The students in the program started with C’s and D’s. Most ended with B’s and there were a couple of A’s. Todd says he expects to see more community buy-in because of the positive results. Just how big the program gets, depends on how much money can be raised.

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Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,High School,Leadership,Tutoring Practices

August 20, 2009

JPS Tutoring Flaws Not Unique

by Ward Schaefer, Jackson Free Press, originally published July 29, 2009

The troubles of a federally funded tutoring program in Jackson Public Schools have a precedent in other states. The program, known as Supplemental Educational Services, promises to boost students at failing schools by paying private companies for after-school help. While some research supports the program’s effectiveness, nationally, the program has also been plagued by incidents of fraud and criticism that it does not reach enough students.

In Jackson Public Schools, the program earned a stern citation from the Mississippi Department of Education for the 2007-2008 school year. JPS failed to ensure that tutoring companies only billed for eligible students, the state reported in a document obtained by the Jackson Free Press. An investigation by the JFP revealed last week that one tutoring company, Jackson-based Gray & Associates, may have overbilled the district by more than $100,000 during 2007-2008. District reports submitted to MDE show the company charged JPS more than $1.3 million for tutoring 1,060 students. At three of the seven middle schools Gray & Associates served, the company charged more than it legally could, given the enrollment numbers on the district reports.

In other school districts, owners of tutoring companies have been arrested for far smaller discrepancies than the one indicated by Gray’s payment from JPS. On June 3, 2009, police in Philadelphia, Pa., arrested Caroline Brooker McGrath for overbilling the city’s schools by $18,801 in services her tutoring company never provided. Another business owner, Keith Mackey, pleaded guilty in April 2007 to a felony after over-charging the district $15,785. Since 2004, four owners of tutoring companies have been arrested for improperly obtaining SES funds from Philadelphia, Pa., schools.

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Filed under: Funding,Tutoring Practices

August 12, 2009

Administrators agree that tutoring is key

By Cain Madden, The Natchez Democrat, originally published Friday, June 19, 2009

Vidalia — Administrators collectively say solving the issues with after-school tutoring programs is the path to raise test scores in Concordia Parish.

On Thursday, administrators met with the school board to discuss growth in LEAP and iLEAP scores.“Tutoring and one-on-one are the best methods for improving scores,” said John Bostic, Monterey High School Principal. Vidalia Junior High Principal Whest Shirley said the before-school math tutoring and after-school programs on all four subjects helped improve their scores. “We were able to hire a math resource teacher and offer after-school tutoring programs that helped lead to the success of our growth,” said Dorris Polk, Principal of Vidalia Lower Elementary.

Monterey Junior High School offered after-school tutoring programs, as well, which helped lead to their growth. “I consistently saw the parking lot full of cars, like they were attending a football game, at Mrs. Julia’s tutoring program,” Bostic said.

Ferriday High School assistant principal Derrick White said they witnessed a small increase from students who attended their after-school tutoring program regularly.

Unfortunately, many schools faced problems with keeping students around after school. Monterey High School and Ferriday Jr. High combated this problem by offering in-school tutoring, to little success. Ferriday Upper Elementary School had to cut its tutoring program due to cuts in its funding.

Schools also tried other methods to improve scores. Both Ferriday Upper and Lower Elementary Schools offered family learning nights. “The family learning night was a huge success this year,” said Sheila Allwood, Ferriday Lower Elementary School Principal. At Vidalia Upper Elementary, Vidalia Junior High and Vidalia High they offered rewards for students on good behavior. “Students who achieved and had good behavior were rewarded with ice cream days,” said Phillis Cage, Vidalia Upper Elementary School Assistant Principal. Shirley said that his school also offered mock testing to help improve scores. “Practice makes perfect,” he said.

Schools also released estimated scores to help discuss their growth.

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Filed under: Admin/Management

August 5, 2009

University tutors offer exam aid

By Brent Davis, The Record, Originally published on June 17, 2009

WATERLOO

Stephanie Meek is by no means a struggling student. The Grade 9 student at St. Mary’s High School says she’s doing much better academically than she was in elementary school. And she’s carrying an 81 per cent average in geography into the final exam next week, the last of four she’ll write before summer vacation begins. But there she was last night at an exam preparation session for the geography course — hoping that one of the gifts she’ll receive when she writes the final on her 15th birthday is a higher mark. "It’s kind of scary going into it," Stephanie said of her exams. "I do better on projects."

That’s where these study sessions come in. Run by Students Offering Support, the three-hour, interactive course reviews are being held at Wilfrid Laurier University for 16 different high school courses, ranging from maths and sciences to French, geography and history. Students also take home a study package. It’s a new initiative for SOS, the university peer tutoring organization founded at Laurier in 2004 by business and computer science student Greg Overholt.

"There’s a lot of need in the high school community," said Overholt, who now oversees the national SOS network at 11 Canadian universities. The sessions cater to every type of student, from weaker students to those like Stephanie hoping to boost already strong grades.

A pilot program in January for a handful of Grade 11 and 12 courses proved very popular, prompting SOS to expand the schedule for June. The high school sessions each have fewer participants than the university ones, providing the opportunity for more one-on-one support. More than 50 university students have volunteered as session leaders.

"You’re learning from someone who’s been there, done that," Overholt said. "Having someone who’s maybe just three, four years older than you — we can really connect that way."

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Filed under: Leadership,Tutoring Practices

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