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.