Accessibility links

Breaking News

Teachers or Tutors? For Some Kids, They Are One and the Same

I’m Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Teams of teachers and school administrators from at least fourteen American cities are at a conference in Washington. The meeting through Sunday is a place to share ideas and discuss programs that could be copied. The American Federation of Teachers, a labor union, holds the Quest conference every two years.

This year, one of the subjects is a tutoring program that provides extra help to students in Rochester, New York. The Rochester City School District was one of five in the nation recognized by the Bush administration for their tutoring programs.

Tutoring is big business in the United States these days. There are private learning centers where parents can take their children after school. Test preparation companies are also doing well.

One reason for all this tutoring is the growing competition for places at top universities. Another influence is the Bush administration's federal education law, called No Child Left Behind. The law requires services like free tutoring for poor students at schools that fail to meet educational goals for three years. In some cases, tutoring may also be provided after two years of a lack of school progress.

There is federal money to pay the tutors. But the No Child Left Behind law does not say who must do the tutoring. It can be a private company or local teachers. The law does say, however, that the provider must have shown a record of effectiveness in helping students learn.

In Rochester, the tutoring is provided by a teachers union, the Rochester Teachers Association. The program began in the spring of two thousand three with forty-seven students and fifteen tutors. This year, eight hundred students received help from two hundred tutors.

Each tutor works with only four students. The program is supervised at each school by a lead teacher who designs programs to meet student needs.

The tutors are well paid. And the program uses teachers from the schools that need to improve. Critics in the private tutoring business question if that is such a good idea. But the teachers say they know the students best. And they say the difference is that each tutor works with only a few students, instead of big classes.

Now, members of the Rochester Teachers Association are tutoring educators from other cities to help them design similar programs.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Our reports are all online at I'm Gwen Outen.