Monday, July 21, 2008

The $20,000 question

The July 20, 2008 Chicago Tribune had a front page feature asking what type of tutoring was the result of $20,000 grants provided to local groups in Chicago.

In another story State Senator Rickey Hendon was called the "king of grants" for helping people in his district get state money.

It's a good time to ask, "what do we mean when we say tutor/mentor program"? What do such programs look like? How can volunteers, donors, parents and/or media shop and compare?

Here's a graphic that I encourage people to think about when talking about a "tutor/mentor program". On one side people are PUSHING kids to make good decisions that can lead them to jobs and careers. On the other, business is PULLING, using their volunteers, dollars, jobs, technology, to provide mentors, learning experiences, and all sorts of supports to help kids become self-motivated to do what they need to do to say in school and prepare for jobs careers.

Here's another graphic, that describes a strategy that connects kids and volunteers. Here's a place on a web site that shows the "success steps" the Cabrini Connections program repeats each year. Here's an essay that is intended to help readers think through this discussion of "tutoring/mentoring".

Here's a list of websites that links to more than 200 Chicago area organizations that offer various forms of volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring.

This web site is interactive. You can rate the programs. Add comments. Or add new programs.

The information is intended for parents, teachers, volunteers, donors, media, politicians, business leaders. You can all use this to make decisions on how to build great tutor/mentor programs, or define in your own mind what a great tutor/mentor program looks like. You can use this information to decide where and how to invest time or dollars.

If you're a parent, this can help you choose between programs... except that in too many zip codes there are few choices to choose from. In these cases, maybe the programs getting $20,000 from the state should be the starting point from which you all work together to build programs that become the best of the best. You don't have many choices if these are your kids, or if Chicagoans want kids in these neighborhoods to have better opportunities for jobs and careers.

My first advice to anyone is that if a program can't show what it is doing, why it does it, where and when it operates, and how people can get involved, using a FREE blog, or some other FREE web space, I'd be cautious about investing in it unless it could show you some plan to use the money to build an effective program.

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