Low-income students
eligible for free tutoring

The program can help raise test scores and it doesn't cost students anything. But just a small fraction of the 30,000 public school students who are eligible for federally funded tutoring are expected to sign up for it this year.

"So many parents who are eligible are not even applying," said Wren Westcoatt, executive director of College Connections Hawaii, a nonprofit organization whose tutors work with students in kindergarten through grade 12.

"We're just hoping the word gets out quickly and they return the paperwork to their schools," he said. "It's a fantastic program. The students get the services free and the schools get extra help for students who are dragging down their test scores."

Notices are now going out to low-income families at 81 schools where student performance has fallen short of federal targets for three years in a row, telling them they can choose a tutoring service for their children. The extra help with reading, writing and math is limited to students who qualify for subsidized lunches, with priority given to students with the lowest report card grades.

More than 25,000 students at 76 schools were eligible last year, when the program was launched, but fewer than 2,000 took part.

"We don't know exactly why we didn't really get that many applications last year," said Lavern Adaniya, who is overseeing the supplemental educational services program for the Department of Education. "Maybe because it was new. I expect to get a lot more applications this year."

The department has prepared letters in 12 different languages in an effort to reach all those eligible. At least $3.9 million in federal funds is available this year, enough to serve 6,100 students, she said. But even if demand jumps, officials don't expect to run short of money.

"There will be enough funds, but there may not be enough tutors to accommodate all requests for services," Adaniya said. "In certain areas there may be more capacity than others."

Hundreds of tutors were trained over the summer in an effort to meet anticipated demand, and four providers are approved to offer the service, with more in the pipeline. Tutoring is now available through College Connections Hawaii, Kumon North America, Hawaii Community School for Adults, and SMARTHINKING, a computer- and Internet-based program.

Students must apply through their schools for the "supplemental educational services," which are required under the No Child Left Behind Act and can include tutoring, remedial classes or summer school. The law aims to make all students proficient in reading and math by 2014.

Parents are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, but may do so at any time during the school year. Tutoring can start before the Christmas break, but most will probably start in January. The service continues through the summer.

"We're very eager to get the program going," said Ruth Silberstein, principal at Palolo Elementary School, where 95 percent of the children are low-income. "We need that extra help."

Her school also has volunteer tutors, who have been working since September, but there aren't enough of them to go around, she said. The tutors, she said, "did wonders" for the children.

"A lot of our students have trouble focusing because they're so used to being entertained by the television," she said. "To think on their own is difficult for some. One-on-one tutoring really helps them learn how to focus, and they pick up skills."

Each student is eligible for $540 to $700 worth of services, an amount that varies by county and is set by the federal program. The money buys different services, depending on the provider.

College Connections' tutors, for example, work with students in one-hour sessions, twice a week, at the child's school. The program, known as Strategic Tutoring, was developed at the University of Kansas and teaches strategies to help students learn and solve problems on their own. Each tutor is paired with two students at a time, for an eight-week program.

More than 90 percent of parents who completed a recent College Connections Hawaii survey reported their children's grades improved after the program.

In the Kumon approach, students attend a Kumon center twice weekly for about 30 minutes and complete worksheets on the other five days. The student-teacher ratio at Kumon is five-to-one, so the cost is lower and services continue for eight months.

"We believe children learn better when they practice a subject in short daily increments," said Matt Lupsha, vice president for Kumon North America. "It's similar to a sport or a musical instrument."

Most school districts across the country are just now getting the program rolling for this school year, he said. Only 5 percent to 10 percent of those eligible have been participating nationwide, he said.

"These children have the same potential, the same ability as others, they just need the opportunity to study as individuals and to have their own unique needs addressed," he said.


Schools eligible for free tutoring

Low-income students having academic trouble can apply for free tutoring:

Aiea Elementary
Central Middle
Dole Middle
Ewa Beach Elementary
Ewa Elementary
Haaheo Elementary
Haleiwa Elementary
Hana High & Elementary
Hauula Elementary
Heeia Elementary
Hilo Intermediate
Hilo Union Elementary
Honaunau Elementary & Intermediate
Honokaa Elementary
Honowai Elementary
Hookena Elementary & Intermediate
Ilima Intermediate
Jarrett Middle
Jefferson Elementary
Kaala Elementary
Kahakai Elementary
Kahaluu Elementary
Kahului Elementary
Kailua Elementary
Kaimiloa Elementary
Kalanianaole Elementary & Intermediate
Kalihi-kai Elementary
Kamaile Elementary
Kapiolani Elementary
Kau High & Pahala Elementary
Kaumana Elementary
Kaunakakai Elementary
Keaau Middle
Kealakehe Elementary
Kealakehe Intermediate
Keaukaha Elementary
Keolu Elementary
Keonepoko Elementary
Kihei Elementary
Kilohana Elementary
King Kaumualii Elementary
Koloa Elementary
Konawaena Elementary
Kualapuu Elementary
Laie Elementary
Laupahoehoe High & Elementary
Leihoku Elementary
Lihikai Elementary
Maili Elementary
Makaha Elementary
Makakilo Elementary
Makawao Elementary
Maunaloa Elementary
Molokai High & Intermediate
Mountain View Elementary
Naalehu Elementary & Intermediate
Nanaikapono Elementary
Nanakuli Elementary
Nanakuli High & Intermediate
Pahoa Elementary
Pahoa High & Intermediate
Paia Elementary
Palolo Elementary
Parker Elementary
Pearl City Elementary
Pohakea Elementary
Pope Elementary
Puohala Elementary
Wahiawa Elementary
Wahiawa Middle
Waiahole Elementary
Waianae Elementary
Waianae High
Waianae Intermediate
Waimanalo Elementary & Intermediate
Waimea Canyon Elementary & Intermediate
Waimea Elementary
Waipahu Elementary
Waipahu Intermediate

Source: Department of Education


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