01/21/07 — WCPS works to provide tutoring options

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WCPS works to provide tutoring options

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 21, 2007 2:00 AM

School officials say they are providing tutoring services year-round as needed for students.

Under the gun to improve standardized test scores, school systems tapping into Title I funds are required to offer supplemental education service programs, also referred to as free tutoring for students. According to the law, 20 percent of Title I funding must be earmarked for the tutoring.

Using end-of-grade and end-of-course tests as a measure, Wayne County student scores dropped in 2005-06, with only 11 out of the 31 public schools, or 35.5 percent, making adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

The school system as a whole met 54 of its 62 AYP goals for the same time period. While that equated to 87.1 percent, it was not sufficient to satisfy the state, which issued letters to parents this week notifying them that the school system missed proficiency and was under watch for "correction action" toward district improvement.

School officials have been working on the problem since the summer, when AYP results were released. In July, letters were sent to parents of students deemed to be at a "school of choice," offering the option to transfer to a school that had made AYP. Transportation was also provided at no cost to the parents.

Tutoring services, secured according to state guidelines, were the other part of the equation, said Dr. Willette Wooten, director of federal programs.

"They give us a list of approved providers, we contact them by mail and ask if they're willing to provide services," she said.

Eligible students in the identified schools are also contacted. Parents are asked to indicate their interest in having their child receive supplemental services. Across the board, parents have been supportive of the programs offered.

"There has been a very positive response from parents in terms of working with the school system for their children," she said. "Parents have willingly participated in getting their students there or picking them up after school, even if transportation was already provided."

The important fact to note, Dr. Wooten said, is that the school system is not taking a "cookie-cutter approach." Education, she added, cannot be done in a one-size-fits-all manner.

"We have tutoring going on during the school day, at the end of the school day, on Saturdays," she explained. "It is not all through the supplemental education service program. SES is just one spoke of it, one part of the structure.

"We're looking at the comprehensive umbrella of services to meet the needs of each student."

Because not every student is eligible for some of the supplemental services, Dr. Wooten said the school system has found alternate ways to ensure that all students receive what they need.

"We in Wayne County take it a step further. ... You could have highly qualified teachers coming in, working with a small group below grade level. That's a structured intervention," she said.

Assessments are constantly done to determine students' reading or math levels and identify those at risk of not meeting the state's performance level, Dr. Wooten said. Small reading groups might be conducted during the school day, while other services might be scheduled before or after school or on a Saturday.

"The school's plan of services are different because all of our schools are different and all of our students are different," she explained.

Because the process is relatively new, there are no hard and fast rules for implementing supplemental services across the county, Dr. Wooten said.

"It might be different next year because we may have something else come up," she said, noting that the late release of math scores, received in November, delayed some of this year's progress.

Officials have since worked steadily to notify parents as well as vendors and then arranged services at schools where they were needed, she said.

"Each vendor specifies a number of days. They provide services in increments. Based on services, we provide a window of time," she said.

Up against the deadline of approaching end-of-grade and end-of-course tests in the spring, Dr. Wooten said the school system's challenge was to start some of the tutoring programs after the Christmas holidays.

"Starting at the beginning of the second semester, we'll go all the way as close to that EOG test," she said. "The vendors work with principals to determine how to get that time in.

"That's the way it is this year. Our basic timeline ... developed based on the release of the math scores."

It is an ongoing process and a comprehensive one, she said.

"It's not just one group of students. It's all students in the school," she said.

And while it stops short of the administrative date of the end-of-grade testing time, as soon as those scores are released, the process picks up again.

"Intervention services move based on EOG tests because we have summer school, also called focused intervention, because it's a process that we use to provide services for those students who have not been successful on the EOG or EOC tests," she said.