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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tutoring free for needy kids

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

TIPS TO FIND TUTORING HELP

  • It's up to parents to pursue tutoring and file an application with their child's school for the assistance.

  • Applications are routed through the district office to the provider specified by the parent.

  • Providers are now able to call parents directly to set up appointments to go over the program and schedule tutoring sessions. In past years, privacy laws prevented that, but parents are now signing waivers to move the process more swiftly.

  • Children are allotted a certain amount annually for tutoring, depending on calculations by the federal government based on poverty levels in each county. In Honolulu, it's $963; on Maui, $873; on Kaua'i, $784; and on the Big Island, $744.

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    Parents are being urged to find out about free tutoring for their school-age children if they are below poverty level and have children attending one of the state's 99 underperforming public schools with more than 35 percent of the population below poverty level.

    In 2004, the most recent data available, only about 10 percent of Hawai'i's 41,000 eligible children about 4,000 took advantage of this free service under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

    Data is not yet available about the number of children who received tutoring last year. The free tutoring is available to disadvantaged children attending schools in School Improvement Year 2 or higher meaning they've failed to meet state goals, or make "adequate yearly progress," for at least three years in a row.

    "We don't have any official deadline for enrolling in tutoring," said Sharon Nakagawa, DOE administrator for special programs. "Through the year, it's an open enrollment period. But they should start enrolling very soon (to get the services as early as possible)."

    Schools are planning parent meetings beginning next week to acquaint parents with the range of services available from 10 vendors doing business with the state, said Butch Adams, a special programs management specialist with the DOE.

    "At least Windward and Leeward have already planned their meetings," said Adams.

    Parents also have been sent letters notifying them of the opportunity for free tutoring, Nakagawa said.

    All states are struggling to encourage parents to take advantage of these services for their children, said Nakagawa.

    "I've just come back from a national association conference for Title 1 directors, and this is a national problem," she said. "Most states are having difficulty getting people to access services."

    According to a new government report, nationally more than four of five students eligible for extra tutoring under NCLB are not getting the required help, though school districts are starting to do a better job of offering those services.

    The report issued by the Government Accountability Office late last week indicated that only 19 percent of eligible students nationwide received extra tutoring in the 2004-05 school year, up from 12 percent the year before.

    About one in five school districts, most of them rural, didn't offer students any services even though they were required to do so, according to the GAO, Congress' watchdog arm.

    The GAO report found that most districts have improved their efforts to contact parents and make them aware of the services, and that many offer help on or near campus. But students often don't take advantage of the help because families aren't notified in time, the report found.

    The report also said school districts impose "burdensome" requirements on tutoring providers that limit marketing to students and use of school facilities.

    Transportation to off-campus tutors also might be an issue for low-income students, particularly in rural areas, said Anna Weselak, National PTA president.

    Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has often talked about the tutoring help as a crucial tool to boost perennially low-performing schools.

    Last month, the department expanded a pilot program that gives select school districts the ability to offer the free tutoring after just two years of poor test scores.

    Gannett News Service contributed to this report.

    Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.