March 30, 2010

Portland School Board auditor reviews federal tutoring program

By Kimberly Melton, originally published 2/25/2010  in The Oregonian

An audit of a federally mandated Portland Public Schools tutoring program for low-income students in struggling schools found the average achievement gains for students receiving the tutoring were slightly larger than the gains of students who didn’t participate in the tutoring. The tutoring program served about 435 students last school year.

The audit found the district was complying with federal requirements but recommended that Portland provide better access to information on the tutoring services to increase participation. It also recommended that the district review its methods for identifying eligible students and encourage the tutoring providers to increase the number of hours of instruction, create specific achievement goals for each student and use small-group or one-on-one sessions. The audit also suggested Portland use software to better track student enrollment, attendance, participation and progress.

When students spent 20 hours or more in tutoring, they scored significantly higher than their peers on the following year’s achievement tests. In 2009, for example, 60 percent of students receiving tutoring met benchmarks compared to 24 percent of eligible students who did not participate in tutoring. The Portland School Board’s auditor, Dick Tracy, came up with those numbers using state test results, not measures provided by the tutoring organizations, which he said were inadequate.

The genesis of the tutoring program is the federal No Child Left Behind law. If a school that receives federal money to assist disadvantaged students fails to meet the law’s benchmarks, it faces federal sanctions. After missing the mark one year, the school must offer transfers. If the school doesn’t meet the achievement targets two years in a row, the school must also offer students supplementary education services, including tutoring and other types of academic enrichment.

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Government,NCLB

March 23, 2010

SAT Prep Gone Wild

by Liz Dwyer, originally published on 2/23 on the Good website

Only wealthy kids are lucky enough to get primed for their SATs with a formal prep course, right? Not anymore. The online social enterprise I Need A Pencil (INAP) is leveling the playing field for students from all economic backgrounds. Founded by Harvard junior Jason Shah, INAP targets low-income students who wouldn’t otherwise have access to college advice, online lessons, mentors, or 24/7 email support– and unlike Kaplan and Princeton Review, it’s all free. “Families shouldn’t have to spend the equivalent of a college classes’ tuition just to get ready to take the SAT,” says Shah…

Since launching in 2007, over 30,000 high school students from families with an average income of $40-80,000 have prepared for the SAT using INAP’s program. Like Princeton Review and Kaplan, INAP users begin by taking an SAT practice test. The site then creates an estimated SAT score as a baseline starting point and provides users with areas of content strength and weakness.

INAP users get 60 custom lessons tailored to academic weaknesses, and an unlimited number of custom SAT questions and practice tests. In comparison, Shah says Kaplan’s SAT Online program offers 30 lessons for $399 with only four practice tests. The Princeton Review’s SAT Live Online costs $699 for 20-30 hours of tutoring with four practice tests. Shah is critical of the prices. “Charging so much puts SAT prep out of most families’ reach. What are we saying?” he asks, “That only rich kids deserve to be prepared for the SAT?”

The site’s beginnings stem from Shah’s 2005 visit to his sister’s sixth-grade Teach For America classroom in West Philadelphia. “One student asked me three times in a half hour how to spell the word ball,” he says. When the kids talked about going to college, Shah, who was only a high school sophomore at the time, couldn’t imagine how they’d be able to score high enough on the SAT to be accepted anywhere.

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Community,Distance Learning,Free Programs/Software,Technology,Tutoring Practices

March 13, 2010

ASU boots up online tutoring

By Maxfield Barker, originally published 2/5/10 on

In a society where most young people are tech savvy, ASU has launched online tutoring as a convenient way for students to get help from home. After a successful pilot run of the program last semester, ASU’s writing center is kicking off its official launch of online writing tutoring.

Andrea Lewis, coordinator of the Tempe writing centers, has been with the program since the beginning. “The program is very successful this year,” she said, adding that it is also a lot more comprehensive than the previous system.

Available on all four campuses, the program is open to all students and uses a Web site system that acts like a chat room. Megan Fisk, a communications and political science senior and Katie Langr, an English and linguistics senior, both work as tutors for the writing center in Hassayampa Academic Village on the Tempe campus. “I really like that students don’t have to come to campus,” Fisk said. “I know there’s a lot of off-campus students who have a lot of online classes, I think it’s more convenient that way.”

The tutoring sessions have screen-sharing capabilities, so the student and tutor can look at the document at the same time, as if it were face-to-face. It’s just more convenient, Langr said. Chatting is available, and if students have the right equipment, audio and video can be used to chat, she said.

“It’s an interactive platform for students,” Lewis said. “Each student gets an online room once they book an appointment.”

To start the tutoring session, a link is sent to the student, sending him or her to the private room. It’s secure, so only the tutor and writer have access, Lewis said. “It’s very important to keep the student’s confidentiality,” she said.

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,College,Technology,Tutoring Practices

March 5, 2010

Despite economy, tutoring service thrives

By Jeannie Nuss, originally posted 1/29/10 in the Boston Globe

Competition for jobs, college helps firm grow

Despite a poor economy that has led other businesses to scale back, a Lexington-based educational company has opened seven tutoring franchises in the past 45 days, and it plans to double in size this year.

Chyten Educational Services, which has 27 tutoring centers, will announce its expansion plans today.

The company has grown in spite of the recession, in part because of an growing number of students taking college entrance exams – nationally, a record 1.53 million students in the class of 2009 took the SAT, according to the College Board – and the appeal of franchises for the increasing number of unemployed workers.

“I think there’s a great opportunity for people who want to start their own business, who maybe lost their jobs because their companies were downsized,’’ said the company’s chief executive, Neil Chyten.

Chyten Educational Services, which began as an extension of Chyten’s long history as a private tutor, has grown from one educational center, founded in 1999 in Newton, to more than two dozen centers in 10 states, including locations in Pittsburgh and Lake Oswego, Ore.

Even as the US unemployment rate hovers near 10 percent, some say Chyten’s expansion plans offer hope for entrepreneurs.

“Small business is the engine of the economy, and here’s a small business who is progressing despite the economy,’’ said Paul Waldeck, vice chairman of SCORE Boston, a chapter of a national volunteer counseling service for small businesses.

Chyten has partnered with Ultra Franchising – it’s the franchising arm of Minuteman Press – as its national sales agent. Nick Gimpel, vice president of the New York company, attributes Chyten’s growth, in part, to increased competition among college students fighting for spots at universities, the economic downturn, which has left people scrambling for jobs and learning new trades, and cutbacks in education that have created a market for more tutors.

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Business Practices,Commercial,Small Private Practices


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