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New group aims to raise funds for tutors at Eastside High

Wednesday, September 3, 2008 by Mark Richardson

A group of education officials and others want to insure the academic success of students at the new Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston Campus and they say they will put money in the students’ pockets to make it happen.


Former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd – along with a coalition of business groups, the Austin School District, and Austin Community College – is proposing a privately funded Tutoring Incentive Program for students at the former Johnston High School. He said the program has a goal of raising $375,000 000 to cover student “achievement incentives” for attending tutoring sessions and funding for tutors.


Johnston High School did not fail,” Todd said. “The community failed the students of Johnston High. The TIP program is designed to help correct that failure by putting students who need extra academic help and tutors from ACC and other colleges together to boost their success.”


TIP will help students with college and/or job-readiness, and will include tutoring programs in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Tutoring will be offered on the Eastside campus after school, in the evenings and on Saturdays.


The program is a partnership among the Austin Community College District, Austin ISD, Eastside Memorial High School staff and students, local colleges, and Kaplan Tutorial Services. Todd said that college students who demonstrate high academic achievement and personal integrity would be recruited from Austin Community College, University of Texas at Austin, St. Edward’s University, Huston-Tillotson University and Concordia University.


Personal interviews and criminal background checks will be administered before hiring tutors. Kaplan Tutorial Services also will be used as needed. The number of students served will be based on available funding.


“We have already made some substantial changes on this campus, including adding new academic programs and hiring new teachers with strong experience,” said AISD Superintendent Pat Forgione. “We believe the TIP will provide a solid foundation for the high school, and will ensure every single student is given the opportunity to succeed academically.”


Forgione said one of the reasons for providing money to the students is that many of the students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and would often spend the time set aside for tutoring at a job.


“We wanted to provide an incentive to keep them in the tutoring program,” he said. “We will determine a set of standards that the student must meet, which will include attending the tutoring session, showing a positive attitude, turning in homework and making academic programs. Evaluations will be performed by the tutors, teachers and administrators.”


The overall effectiveness of TIP will be determined by reviewing data such as students’ TAKS scores, six-week grades, high school exam and course grades, and results of diagnostic pre- and post-testing.


On June 4, 2008, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott ordered the former Johnston High School to close, after several years of being rated Academically Unacceptable under the state accountability system.


The district has “repurposed” the high school. On June 9, Austin school trustees voted unanimously to submit a resolution and plan to reopen the former Johnston High School for the 2008-2009 school year as Eastside High to the Texas Education Agency.


Todd is working to raise the $300,000 needed to pay the tutors and program coordination through private donors, as well as the $75,000 for student achievement incentives.


“My son graduated from Johnston High School, so I have a personal connection to the school,” Todd said. “I also believe it is critical that we give all students the same opportunity to get a solid education.”


He said that tutors will be paid the market rate for such services, about $12 per hour, and the students could be compensated about $6 or so, depending on available funds. He was not certain yet if students would be paid periodically or would have to complete successfully complete a course to receive their pay.


He said other school districts – including one in the San Antonio area – have had success with providing financial incentives for students to participate in tutoring programs.


The Austin Community College Center is handling fundraising for Public Policy and Political Studies. CPPPS is a non-profit organization at ACC committed to education, civic engagement, informed decision-making and understanding across cultures. Todd is chair of the CPPPS board of directors.

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