December 29, 2009

Community group blasts CPS for after school tutoring cuts

By Rhonda Gillespie, originally published in the Chicago Defender Online on 11/19/09

Some elected officials and community groups are reeling over a Chicago Public Schools’ decision to seek a waiver that would allow the school district to, in effect, cut funding for after school tutoring and, instead, use the money to plug budget holes.

“It’s unconscionable” that CPS would divert millions of dollars away from a program that not only provides an academic boost to students but also serves as a haven for them after school, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-13th Dist., said at a press conference Nov. 12 on the steps of the New Spiritual Light Baptist Church, in the South Shore community.

Critics of the cuts said that from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on school days is a time when young people are likely to get into serious trouble. The tutoring program, members of the Safe and Fair Education Coalition said, also offers the young people an alternative to the streets. The coalition is made up of parents, and community and school groups.

“A waiver is tantamount to the word ‘renege,’” state Rep. Marlow Colvin, D- 33rd Dist., said at the press conference.

He urged CPS to reconsider the waiver request and “provide these critical dollars that the stimulus … the president” provided to students.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Government,NCLB

December 23, 2009

Two decades of tutoring at Cluster program

By Finisha O’Quinn, originally published in the Austin Weekly News on 11/18/09

Students and tutors of the Cluster Tutoring Program – past and present – were in attendance Nov. 12, at First United Church of Oak Park to celebrate a milestone.

The nonprofit organization has been providing free academic assistance to the youth of the Austin community for 20 years. The church hosted an open house celebration last Thursday at the church.

A group of local churches started the program in 1989, astonished by statistics showing that more than half of Chicago Public School children did not graduate from high school. It started with just seven students and seven volunteers. Today, the program assists nearly 100 students, and has a waiting list of 20 more. Volunteers, mostly from Oak Park, provide one-on-one tutoring to children from kindergarten through high school for 90 minutes once a week.

Kasheika Cobbins, a student at Triton College studying education, was a third-grader when she started in the program and is now a volunteer there. Cobbins has only words of praise for Cluster.

“My grandmother signed me up because reading was my weakness,” she recalled. “I remember my tutor and I connected immediately. I can recall coming, even when I didn’t have homework, and we would just sit and read the newspaper or books together. Coming here really helped my reading and vocabulary skills.”

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Community,High School,K-8,Leadership

December 15, 2009

Educators earn extra tutoring after school

By Phillip D. Brown, originally published in the Richmond County Daily Journal on 11/14/09

Monroe Avenue Elementary School Academic Coach Joyce McRae took off her academic coaching hat with Richmond County Schools to put on a teaching and tutoring hat with RCS HOPE Learning Community Thursday after school.

Her double duties were made possible by a federally-funded program to provide tutoring and other academic services students who receive free or reduced price lunch at schools across the country that have failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind regulations two or more consecutive years.

McRae was going over a lesson in reading comprehension at approximately 4 p.m. “So, what do you do when you review what you read?” she asked the four students in her classroom, then paused to hear an answer from them. “That’s right, you go back over what you just read and review it.”

Taey’a Little is one of those students, and she said she is more likely to ask a question in the more intimate setting with only three of her peers than in a classroom with more than 20 other students. “Tutoring is a place for you to learn, and to ask questions when you don’t understand something,” she said. “I think it helps me a lot because I can ask her questions about the stuff we learn.”

There are a total of 329 students from the three schools receiving this type of service from eight different companies. Four of those companies run afterschool-based programs, while two run Saturday school-based programs and the other two work through the Internet.

Richmond County Schools Director of Federal Programs Cindy Holland said that is exactly the point of providing this type of supplemental educational service. “The class sizes are about five-to-one, so that offers them a much smaller, more one-on-one setting than the classroom,” she said.

While county schools have participated in this federal program for four years now, Holland said the way it is evaluated has been stepped up this year. “The monitoring piece of this hasn’t been as strong as we’d like to see in the past,” she said. “This year, the state has met with every county, and they will be visiting every site where the services are offered, and actually go into the classrooms, to make sure that providers are doing what they say they are.”

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Funding,High School

December 6, 2009

A Miami nonprofit offers struggling kids music, tutoring

by Pamela Duque, Miami Herald on 11/13/09

A nonprofit organization is pairing music and academic programs to help students overcome their struggles at school.

A little more than a year ago, Jay B. Hess, a life-long music enthusiast, and Ian Welsch, a former elementary school teacher, came together to offer both academic and musical programs to needy or at-risk children in South Florida.

The result was The Motivational Edge, a nonprofit organization that offers academic and music programs to children who are either struggling with grades at school, or whose families can’t afford to pay for tutoring.

“This is my absolute passion, to give back to the community,” said Welsch, who was an elementary school teacher for four years, until he decided to start his own tutoring center. We are accomplishing a life-long dream to offer education to those less fortunate. We want them to be able to afford quality education.”

Welsch graduated from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut with a masters of science degree in education, and moved in 2005 to Miami, where he started teaching at Melrose Elementary School. His venture as a solo tutor did not last long.

“I realized they couldn’t afford what I had to offer, so I decided to revamp the whole thing and follow my heart.”

He then partnered with Hess, and together they formed The Motivational Edge, which is funded by donations, grants and fundraising. The organization offers programs such as after-school tutoring to help children with their homework, and to prepare them for the FCAT, SAT and the High School Placement Test.

Hess, currently the chief operating officer, is a member of the National Music Teachers Association, Florida State Music Teachers Association board of directors, and the Miami Civic Music Association at the University of Miami, among other groups. He is also the board chairman of the Youth for the Arts Forum, and the director of the Hess Conservatory of Music, an organization founded in 1959 by Carolyn Hess, his mother, thatoffers music and instrument classes.

“We believe that pairing the education qualities of the both of us provides a synthesis upon which we will improve the education levels among the less privileged,” Hess said.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Community

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