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New Orleans Students Snub Free Tutoring

Fewer than 500 of 7,500 eligible New Orleans public school students have signed up for free, one-on-one tutoring that chronically poor-performing schools now are required to offer.

Students at 16 New Orleans schools are entitled to individual tutoring services because their schools have been labeled "academically unacceptable" based on state school accountability measures. Starting as early as next week, the tutoring will be provided by seven state-approved outside companies or nonprofit groups, and paid for with part of the school system's federal education money.

Although the details of the tutoring programs vary, most students will attend after-school sessions at least twice a week, and some also will be offered weekend sessions. Some students will be tutored at their schools, others will need to travel to other schools or to tutoring centers for their sessions.

For example, the Dryades YMCA will offer on-campus tutoring for middle-school students, and Sylvan Learning Center, a Baltimore-based company, will offer tutoring at all 16 schools. But students who choose tutoring by Kumon Math and Reading Centers, based in New Jersey, will need to travel to the center's Metairie or Gretna sites. In most cases, transportation to off-campus centers must be provided by parents.

Although the free tutoring was offered to all students at the 16 schools, parents of only 489 students signed them up, or about 6.5 percent. School officials did not speculate why the response was so low but said they hope more parents will register their children for tutoring.

Parents of eligible students were notified in September through letters sent home with students or mailed to their homes, school system spokeswoman Tia Alexander said in an e-mail response to questions. Parents of students in the low-performing schools also were invited to an information fair at which they were told about the services and other choices available to students of low-performing public schools.

Free tutoring for students in failing public schools is an option added to the state's accountability program last year to meet new guidelines under the No Child Left Behind Act passed by Congress in 2001.

In August, state education officials threatened to withhold about $30 million in federal education money from the New Orleans school system because the district had not been offering tutoring to students at 12 schools who were eligible beginning in January. New Orleans officials promised to start up the services immediately for students who had requested it, and they said tutoring would be offered to other students in September.

The 16 New Orleans public schools that must offer the tutoring also were among 50 schools in the city required to give their students the chance to transfer to a better-performing school. Although federal law requires parents to be offered transfers before the start of school, New Orleans schools didn't begin that process until early September, notifying parents of both options at the same time.

The New Orleans public schools whose students are eligible for the free tutoring are Andrew J. Bell Junior High, P.A. Capdau Middle, G.W. Carver Middle, Charles J. Colton Middle, A.P. Tureaud Elementary, Joseph A. Craig Elementary, S.J. Green Middle, John W. Hoffman Elementary, Edward Livingston Middle, McDonogh No. 28 Middle, Medard H. Nelson Elementary, Israel Meyer Augustine Middle, Edward Phillips Middle, Carter G. Woodson Middle, Sophie B. Wright Middle and L.B. Landry Middle.

— Aesha Rasheed
Orleans Students snub free tutoring


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