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NCLB Outrages

Federally Required Tutoring

Ohanian Note: The Feds are requiring local districts to spend $2,000 per child for tutoring by a person who hasn't graduated from college.

Darlene Stanfield never would be able to afford after-school tutoring for her school-age children, so she's thrilled she can get it for free.

Seven of her nine children -- who attend four different Detroit public schools -- are getting the extra help at Sylvan Learning Center.

"They're doing the same things they're doing in school -- it's tied to the school program, and they're anxious to go," Stanfield said.

Stanfield's children are among the 1,529 low-income Detroit kids taking advantage of free tutoring that's available to them because their schools failed to meet state academic goals.

Michigan has 50 such tutoring providers and plans to add about a dozen more soon. But whether the improvement the providers are seeing translates to higher MEAP scores -- the measure of success -- remains to be seen.

Schools can spend a maximum of $2,000 per pupil on the program and work with the providers to determine how much tutoring that money can buy. The kids get one-on-one assistance or work in small groups.

The tutors must have either a two-year college degree or have completed two years of college; the program's supervisors must be certified teachers.

"The potential is great. But some providers are going to be quite successful in improving student achievement, but others won't," said David Plank, codirector of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.

Outside tutoring is necessary because even though the schools are being forced to improve, some students need an extra boost, said Thomas Corwin, associate deputy undersecretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

"The low-income students at those schools should have other opportunities so they can catch up," Corwin said.

Rosemary Wilson, who tutors children through Club Z! In Home Tutoring -- a Canton-based arm of a national organization -- has one student whose grades improved from all F's to all C's and B's.

She credits the one-on-one attention her students get.

"It lets you know that what you're doing is not just going out there and making a dollar. We're making a difference," Wilson said.

— Lori Higgins and Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki
TUTORING AT WORK: Extra help gives some a boost
Detroit Free Press


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