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Bethune Tutoring Participation Soars to More than 60 Percent

Ohanian Comment: Read the teacher-bashing comment by the Shreveport employee in charge of NCLB, and then read the next sentence: a math teacher is hired to teach reading.

The NCLB Extra Credit update sent a shortened version of this article to their list.

If you want more information on Failure Free:


More than 60 percent of Bethune Middle School students are participating in tutoring required by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Eighth-graders Alexis Johnson and Tierra Kennedy joined the tutoring program when it kicked off in November at the Shreveport school. Tuesday, they giggled as they traded information like their favorite songs and colors in a lesson about comparing and contrasting.

Tierra's goal is well-defined. "I want to pass the LEAP test and go to high school and go to college."

The students receive tutoring through Education Station, one of three for-profit companies providing help.

Because students failed to improve test scores enough in 2003, state education officials ranked Bethune Middle as academically unacceptable. The school system must pay for-profit companies to provide after-school help.

Alexis' and Tierra's group is typical, with teacher Nekeyla Oliver guiding 10 or fewer students through structured lessons on reading comprehension and analysis techniques, vocabulary and other English/language arts topics.

Down the hall, students talk via the Internet to tutors with the computer-based Socratic Learning.

In the school library, three Bethune Middle teachers hired by Failure Free Reading, another provider, give students a mix of one-on-one attention, computer-based exercises and self-paced written work.

Kathy Gallant, who oversees the district's school choice and supplemental tutoring program, praised Failure Free Reading's approach.

"I'm really impressed with them. Middle school, high school teachers, they don't know how to teach reading. They expect the students to know how to read. (Failure Free) was willing to take the lowest of the low."

Laureen Stephens, an eighth-grade math teacher by day, works one on one with students during the hourlong reading session. She helped seventh-grader Virginia Bennett focus on vocabulary words during a session Tuesday while keeping an eye on a clowning student waiting his turn.

"I'm going to talk to you later," Stephens promised the other student as Virginia whizzed through an exercise.

Virginia thinks the tutoring has helped her because "when I see a word in class, I know the meaning of it already."

Bethune Middle's after-school tutoring participation rate is greater than the national average for chronically low-achieving schools that must provide extra help for students. The school system will spend up to $1,331 per participating student for tutoring this year. System officials are pushing to prepare students for state standardized tests in March, but tutoring can continue until a student receives 40 hours of help.

State officials will evaluate the tutoring programs' effectiveness based on student test scores. So will Gallant and others in Caddo. Even if Bethune Middle improves its state ranking, it must offer the tutoring for another year. "We want to know what's effective," Gallant said. "We want to provide something that's working."

— Melody Brumble



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