April 30, 2010

Tutoring is only the beginning for Charlotte Empowerment Zone kids

By Mark Price, charlotteobserver.com, originally posted on Friday, Mar. 05, 2010

New initiative takes community approach to educating children from at-risk neighborhoods.

Even spread out over two adjoining apartments, 26 kids is about 20 too many. The noise alone is overwhelming, with the yelling and laughter expanding to fill every available inch. Still, the newly opened Charlotte Empowerment Zone in the Pressley Ridge Apartments is something of a miracle.

There are often children waiting for its doors to open Tuesday nights, jostling to get inside first for the most unexpected of reasons. “They’re helping us with our homework,” says 11-year-old Moesha Brown. “So we can go to college,” adds her 9-year-old sister, Sabrina.

The empowerment zone, which started Jan. 26 with just 11 kids, represents Charlotte’s first attempt at re-creating New York City’s successful Harlem Children’s Zone, an educational initiative serving 17,000 children in a 100-city block area of Harlem.

At its core, empowerment zones are about keeping at-risk kids in school all the way through college. But the effort goes well beyond tutoring, into the realm of transforming entire at-risk neighborhoods through education, social services and community-building programs.

The nonprofit agency NeXus Urban Serve is behind the Charlotte zone, which was recently lauded by Mayor Anthony Foxx as “the kind of bold initiative our city needs.”

NeXus has crafted six programs for Pressley Ridge, including day care/preschool education, summer school and even parent training. Noah Manyika is the founder of NeXus, and his dream is for the success in Pressley Ridge to prompt nonprofits to create zones in all of Charlotte’s troubled areas.

“Money will always be in short supply for the schools, so we need to ask ourselves as a society: Are we going to just give up, or are we going to start trying to do things differently?” he says. “How about instead of asking the child to come to us for help, we focus resources on their home and their community, to make sure it is supportive of goals in the schools?”

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Community,Funding,Government

April 21, 2010

Teacher devotes self to tutoring

By Jenna Rew, Seminole Chronicle, originally published March 03, 2010

Zero contracts might not be the most practical way to run a business, but Jackie Murphy, owner of A Plus School Depot, says it’s an important part of how she runs hers.

Murphy, an Oviedo fourth-grade elementary school teacher, opened the tutoring center on Graham Avenue across from Lawton Elementary in 2007. Parents never sign contracts and fees are negotiable based on a student’s needs.

“Some places will make them [parents] sign a six-month to a year contract,” Murphy said, “but maybe the kid only needs three months.”

Murphy and two fellow teachers got the idea for the center after noticing a need for extra help outside of the tutorial programs offered at their schools.

Originally, Murphy had placed her name on a list passed out to parents looking for tutors. She was asked to meet with one boy four days a week for two hours a day. She had less than two months to get him ready for the state-issued FCAT test.

She met with the child at his home, and that’s when she decided there needed to be a place for them to go. “It’s hard for kids to work at their own home with the distractions of TV, the doorbell, their dogs, their friends,” Murphy said. “It just wasn’t working. It wasn’t a good environment.”

When A Plus School Depot opened, that child was its only customer. He did go on to pass the FCAT and his grade level. Now each month, the center regularly tutors between 20 and 30 children, ranging in age from pre-K to high school.

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Small Private Practices

April 13, 2010

Former ‘No Child Left Behind’ Advocate Turns Critic

by Steve Inskeep, NPR, originally published on 3/2/2010

In 2005, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch wrote, “We should thank President George W. Bush and Congress for passing the No Child Left Behind Act … All this attention and focus is paying off for younger students, who are reading and solving mathematics problems better than their parents’ generation.”

Four years later, Ravitch has changed her mind.

“I was known as a conservative advocate of many of these policies,” Ravitch says. “But I’ve looked at the evidence and I’ve concluded they’re wrong. They’ve put us on the wrong track. I feel passionately about the improvement of public education and I don’t think any of this is going to improve public education.”

Ravitch has written a book about what she sees as the failure of No Child Left Behind called The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She says one of her biggest concerns is the way the law requires school districts to use standardized testing.

Emphasis On Test Scores Led To Cheating, Dishonesty

“The basic strategy is measuring and punishing,” Ravitch says of No Child Left Behind. “And it turns out as a result of putting so much emphasis on the test scores, there’s a lot of cheating going on, there’s a lot of gaming the system. Instead of raising standards it’s actually lowered standards because many states have ‘dumbed down’ their tests or changed the scoring of their tests to say that more kids are passing than actually are.”

Some states contend that 80 to 90 percent of their children are proficient readers and have math proficiency as well, Ravitch notes. But in the same states, only 25 to 30 of the children test at a proficient level on national tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“Secretary (of Education Arne) Duncan often says we’re lying to our kids,” Ravitch says. “And we are lying to our kids.”

‘There Should Not Be An Education Marketplace’

Part of the reason schools were so intent on achieving high tests scores was because they were competing with other schools for resources, which were often doled out on that basis alone.

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Government,NCLB

April 5, 2010

In Hong Kong, star tutors earn $1.5 million salaries

By Isabella Steger, originally posted on 3/2/10 in The Christian Science Monitor

In the Hong Kong cut-throat world of Chinese education, star tutors drive Ferraris and earn $1.5-million salaries.

Their confident faces smile out from billboards across the city. Their promotional grins are plastered across double-decker buses, subway light boxes, even on TV.

These are Hong Kong’s “star tutors,” accorded near-celebrity status for their ability to make learning fun and help students pass exams in everything from English to chemistry. Tutoring is common in Asia, where intense emphasis on grades and exams means parents are willing to shell out. More than half of Hong Kong’s youths get assistance outside school, a recent survey found.

The industry here is especially competitive and commercialized as tutors mimic the city’s showbiz industry to attract students and grab a share of the $460 million market.

“Those images of fame and stardom have been sustained and re-invented in different forms, resulting in tutors now packaging themselves as the superstars of the education sector in order to appeal to students,” says Gerald Postliglione, a professor at the University of Hong Kong.

Star tutors spare no costs on publicity. Even tutors who belong to one of the four major chains here must self-promote. But successful tutors can command hundreds of students. Those at the very top see their lives splashed across the pages of the city’s gossip magazines, revealing how many luxury cars they drive or properties they own. Some reports put their salaries as high as $1.5 million a year. One English tutor, Richard Eng, is famous for his love of Ferraris.

Critics worry that the emphasis on good looks and brand names sends youths the wrong message, but some tutors say the gimmicks are indispensable – and that the results are real. “The marketing is only for attracting students – we still need to deliver to keep the students coming back,” says Antonia Cheng, an English tutor at Modern Education, a major chain.

Ms. Cheng says she tries to make English fun, using interactive methods and discussing contemporary issues. Cheng gives out her phone number; many tutors also are on Facebook. “Teachers communicate in a way we understand, unlike at school, which we find really boring,” says Casper Chan, a high-schooler.

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Business Practices,Small Private Practices

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