December 30, 2014

The Test Prep Industry Is Booming

by Patrick Clark, BloombergBusinessWeek

Thousands of high school students will take the SAT this weekend. Many of them will try to boost their scores with tricks learned from high-priced tutoring services, which have turned Americans’ college anxiety into a booming business. The number of test prep centers in the U.S. more than doubled to 11,000 from 1998 to 2012, the last year for which Census data are available.

There’s a multibillion-dollar market for tutoring services in the U.S., with franchises such as Kumon and big chains including Kaplan and Princeton Review. The test prep industry promises to help students score better on everything from the SAT to Advanced Placement courses to med school entrance exams.

Tutoring businesses are more likely to pop up in populous states, where there are dense concentrations of striving students, with families willing to pay for lessons that can exceed $200 an hour. New Jersey had 16 tutoring businesses for every 100,000 residents aged 23 or younger, the highest rate of any state. Wyoming had two tutoring centers per 100,000, the lowest.

Do states with more testing centers do better on the SATs? How effective test prep courses are is an open debate, and looking at Census data on tutoring establishments is a very blunt tool for answering the question. Scoring data from the College Board, which administers the SAT, shows a scattershot relationship between test scores and test prep businesses. Idaho, which has among the fewest tutoring businesses, had the second-lowest SAT scores in the country in 2013. Then again, North Dakota, where tutors are also sparse, had the second-highest scores.

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Filed under: Test Prep

December 26, 2014

United Way: Impacting Grade-Level Reading: Iowa Reading Corps

By Sara Wilson, United Way of Story County, originally published in the Ames Tribune

Earlier this month, we highlighted how important Grade-Level Reading is to the future of our students as well as our community. In subsequent weeks, this column is focusing on what United Way of Story County (UWSC) is doing to increase proficiency in reading at grade level. During the previous few weeks we described how important attendance, school readiness and out-of-school learning are to a child’s academic success. We told you UWSC convenes community partners to work on these areas through the Grade-Level Reading campaign.

The final component in this area is the Iowa Reading Corps, an exciting outcome of the Ames Reads collaboration.

The Iowa Reading Corps, a replication of the successful Minnesota Reading Corps, is a tutoring program to help increase the number of students who are reading at grade level. The program, managed by United Ways of Iowa, utilizes daily, one-on-one reading practice and is implemented in six Story County elementary schools this year – Ames (Sawyer), Ballard East, Ballard West, Collins-Maxwell, Colo-Nesco and Nevada.

Last school year, the first year of the program, three of the above Story County schools were involved. Because of the program’s success, Ballard East, Nevada and Sawyer renewed and more schools were able to be added. The program has grown from ten AmeriCorps members serving eight school districts statewide to 25 members serving 20 schools. The program places AmeriCorps members, trained as Elementary Literacy Tutors, in schools to implement literacy interventions for students who are just below proficiency in reading.

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Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Community

December 18, 2014

Oak Harbor peer tutoring program helping struggling students study

By Michelle Beahm, Whidbey News-Times Reporter

In the North Whidbey Middle School library, Oasean Weaver, left, Erina Horikawa, Emily Black and Deandre Bennett discuss various class assignments they’ve received so far this school year. Horikawa and Black are National Honor Society students visiting the middle school to offer their tutoring services to any middle school students who might need help with their coursework. — Photo by Michelle Beahm/Whidbey News-Times

Sometimes students need extra help with their coursework. In the Oak Harbor School District, it’s getting easier to get that help.  “As a district, we’ve tried to offer more opportunities for kids outside of the school day,” said Assistant Superintendent Steve King, “whether that be through tutoring or other activities.”

Peer tutoring is proving to be especially popular. National Honor Society students at Oak Harbor High School are required to spend a certain amount of time tutoring. Though it’s mandatory, they say they enjoy helping their peers. “It makes you feel good,” said Lauren Aspery, a National Honor Society student. “Like you’re actually helping someone.”

Those students tutor not only their fellow high school students, but also travel to the middle schools to help those students with any work they’re struggling with. “National Honor Society students who come will help students with any of the work they need,” said North Whidbey Middle School Principal Bill Weinsheimer.

Weinsheimer said the most common subjects covered in tutoring are the core subjects, like math, English, science and social studies. However, even if the student doesn’t want help from high schoolers in other subjects, help is available through teachers after school. Weinsheimer said that it’s not uncommon for art, band or choir students to stay after school to get help from teachers.

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Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,K-8,Peer-Tutoring

December 4, 2014

Spryfield’s Pathways to Education tutoring racks up successes

By Jennifer Henderson, CBC News

Cheryl Matheson says the program has had 'amazing' results. (CBC)

An after-school program in Spryfield, N.S., says it’s helping more people graduate from high school. About 200 students have attended Pathways to Education, a national course backed by government and private companies. It helps low-income students complete their high school education. The overall graduation rate for the area was 54 per cent a few years ago.

It’s in its fourth year.

“Eighty-five per cent of students enrolled in our program last year were able to graduate high school last year,” said Cheryl Matheson, the director of Pathways to Education.

‘It’s a lot different than high school … but Pathways gave me the study habits and materials to prepare me for university.’- Tayor Conran

“That was amazing. Finishing school is a big issue in this community and other communities across Canada.”

Students from Grade 9 to Grade 12 must attend at least two after-school tutoring sessions each week at the Chebucto Connections Community Centre near J.L. Ilsley High School. Tutoring is provided by 65 volunteers from Halifax universities. The centre has computers and quiet rooms with desks and lamps. Healthy snacks are donated by a nearby nursing home and Target store. Students who stick with Pathways for four years receive a $4,000 scholarship toward further training or education.

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Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,High School


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