Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Third-grader Angel Nguyen, 8, receives tutoring after school with Rebecca Hirakami at Kalihi Kai Elementary School. The after-school tutoring program is mandated by the No Child Left Behind law, but turnout among students remains low.

The learning

Turnout for free tutoring
remains low despite
extensive efforts by officials

More students in Hawaii are signing up for free tutoring after school, but they are far outnumbered by classmates who aren't taking advantage of the federal effort to boost performance at public schools.

"The difficulty is having parents agree to it or even respond to our offers," said Joseph Theroux, principal of Keaukaha Elementary School, which serves children on Hawaiian homestead land in Hilo.


So far this school year, 4,328 students statewide have signed up for tutoring, a 77 percent jump over the 2,447 tutored last year through the No Child Left Behind Act, according to Butch Adams, special programs management specialist for the Department of Education. That follows a similar increase the previous year.

Administrators at public schools across the state have sent letters home, made personal phone calls and even knocked on doors to encourage parents to let their children participate.

"The bottom line is we'll do whatever it takes to provide this opportunity for our students," said Stanley Kayatani, principal of Kalihi Kai Elementary, where 250 students are being tutored, about a third of the student body. "We do a lot of following up with parents."

Tutoring is the most popular aspect of the No Child Left Behind law, better known for its rigid test score requirements and harsh penalties on schools that don't make the grade. And as word gets around, the number of students taking part has grown steadily during the three years of the program.

Still, this year's total represents just 17 percent of the nearly 25,000 students eligible in 64 schools across the state. (See list.) Tutoring in math and English is available to low-income students at schools that have missed federal performance targets for three years, with priority given to children having the most trouble academically.

After school let out at Kalihi Kai Elementary School last week, Rebecca Hirakami, a fourth-grade teacher who is also a College Connections tutor, stayed late to work with Francisco Selga, who was celebrating his ninth birthday.

"I really like it because it's one-to-one, and I'm able to figure out exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are, and use the right strategies," Hirakami said. "It's kind of hard to do that with 27 kids."

In a nearby classroom, third-graders Anne-Marie Juan and Mark Lester Lombawa calculated the perimeters of rectangles with help from another teacher-turned-tutor, Terry Muranaka.

"There's more kids in class (during the day)," Anne-Marie said. "It's easier to learn with my tutor. Both my mom and dad think it's great."

But getting parents to sign up has been a hurdle. Some parents have trouble believing that the service really is free, said Stephanie Helbush, program administrator for College Connections. In rural areas, transportation can be a problem for children who rely on the school bus.

"Sometimes parents say it's not convenient because of their schedules. Sometimes they just simply neglect to respond," said Theroux, whose Hilo school has signed up roughly half of its eligible children. "It's frustrating."

Roughly $7.3 million in federal money is available to pay for private tutors in Hawaii through the No Child Left Behind Act this school year. The district expects to use about $2.8 million this year, with the cost per child ranging from $640 to $770, depending on location, Adams said.

Tutoring is offered by College Connections, Education Therapy Inc., Hawaii Community School for Adults, Hawaii Tutorial Academy Inc., Kumon North America and SMARTHINKING, an Internet-based program. It is held on or off campus, depending on the provider. Students can still sign up for this year because tutoring continues into the summer.

Schools that have managed to link lots of students with tutors say it makes a difference. At Laie Elementary School, tutoring was one of several factors that helped the campus get off the list of low-performing schools, making it no longer eligible for the service this year, according to Vice Principal Gay Nall.

"I think the tutoring was very, very helpful," she said. "It helped us target the students that needed the help the most. I wish we would have been able to have it for another year."

College Connections said its data shows that the higher the percentage of students enrolled in its tutoring program, the more likely the school was to make "adequate progress" under the federal law last year.

Tutoring is far more popular than the "school choice" option also offered parents through the No Child Left Behind law, which allows parents to transfer their children to better-scoring schools. Although twice as many schools offer "school choice" as offer tutoring, only 693 students opted to switch campuses because of low test scores at their home school. Parents say they stick with their neighborhood schools for the convenience and because they are happy with their children's teachers.

State Department of Education

Schools statewide offer free tutoring

Low-income students at 64 schools statewide are eligible for free tutoring, which is also available in the summer. Contact the school principal to apply. The schools are:

» Aiea Elementary
» Anuenue
» Central Middle
» Dole Middle
» Hauula Elementary
» Haleiwa Elementary
» Hilo Intermediate
» Hana High & Elementary
» Ilima Intermediate
» Jarrett Middle
» Jefferson Elementary
» Kaala Elementary
» Kahakai Elementary
» Kahaluu Elementary
» Kahului Elementary
» Kalakaua Middle
» Kalanianaole Elementary & Intermediate
» Kalihi Elementary
» Kalihi Kai Elementary
» Kamaile Elementary
» Kapiolani Elementary
» Kau High & Pahala Elementary
» Kaumana Elementary
» Kaunakakai Elementary
» Kealakehe Elementary
» Kealakehe Intermediate
» Keaukaha Elementary
» Keeau Middle
» Keolu Elementary
» Keonepoko Elementary
» Kilohana Elementary
» Koloa Elementary
» Kualapuu Public Charter School
» Laupahoehoe High & Elementary
» Leihoku Elementary
» Lihikai Elementary
» Maili Elementary
» Makaha Elementary
» Maunaloa Elementary
» Molokai High
» Molokai Intermediate
» Naalehu Elementary & Intermediate
» Nanakuli Elementary
» Nanakuli High & Intermediate
» Nanaikapono Elementary
» Pahoa Elementary
» Pahoa High & Intermediate
» Paia Elementary
» Palolo Elementary
» Parker Elementary
» Pope Elementary
» Puohala Elementary
» Waiahole Elementary
» Wahiawa Elementary
» Wahiawa Middle
» Waialua High & Intermediate
» Waianae Elementary
» Waianae High
» Waianae Intermediate
» Waimanalo Elementary & Intermediate
» Waimea Canyon Elementary & Intermediate
» Waimea Elementary
» Waipahu Elementary
» Waipahu Intermediate

Source: Hawaii Department of Education

State Department of Education

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com