Tutoring program at Columbia elementary schools aims to improve test scores

Thursday, December 16, 2010 | 11:18 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Six elementary schools in Columbia are taking advantage of tutoring aimed at improving test scores for children from low-income households.

Schools trying to improve their standing under the federal No Child Left Behind Act may receive state funding to hire tutoring services in mathematics or language arts.

“The main objective of the tutoring program is to ensure that a student is either proficient or advanced when taking the standardized tests given in the Columbia schools,” said Amy Upton, site coordinator of Supplemental Educational Services at West Boulevard Elementary School.

The other elementary schools are Lewis, Benton, Blue Ridge, Derby Ridge and Parkade.

Through the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, any Title I school in its second year of federally mandated improvement may use this tutoring option. Title I schools are typically those in which 40 percent or more of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

At Parkade, 31 students have been tutored since October in language arts by Ace-It's Sylvan, Spartan and Achievia. After the new year, the school will decide whether to keep that focus or switch to math.  

The Parkade students are tutored for an hour after school three days a week; bus service is provided.

Parkade counselor Mary Carroll is in her first year organizing the program.

“At the beginning of the year, parents get a list of tutoring providers and then they get to choose their first three choices,” Carroll said. Parents can choose from 30 providers.

Depending on the tutoring service, the school might hire teachers who already work at the building, Carroll said. Most of the tutors now are from outside the school.

“I think it works pretty well," she said. "I’m excited to see the results.” 

Supplemental Educational Services are in accordance with the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. The tutoring services must be high quality, research-based and designed to increase student academic achievement. They also must comply with state guidelines, including involving parents. 

“I have not had any complaints from parents or guardians about the program," Upton said, "and quite a few of them commented on how they received information at the halfway point about their child’s progress.”

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