Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Connecting Professional Tutoring with Volunteer-Based Tutoring

I encourage you to read this article, written on Diane Palumbo's Homework Help Today blog. This is an example of the type of advocacy and leadership I hope will emerge from many business sectors in all parts of the country.

I use maps like this to illustrate the needs of kids in areas of highly concentrated poverty are different than the needs of kids in more diverse, and more affluent areas.

It's not that kids in all economic strata don't have learning needs, or a need for extra adults in their lives. It's that kids in poverty have less access to these resources.

Take tutoring for an example. I live in Park Ridge, Illinois just outside of the city limits. I moved their in 1988 before I left my corporate job. It's a community with many affluent families, and great schools. However, kids need help, and some go to professional tutoring services, where the fees can be $90 per hour and higher. The really sophisticated tutoring services, have diagnostic services that can identify learning problems, and prescriptive services that can help kids overcome those programs. Many of the kids coming to these services are motivated to learn, and the tutor has the professional skills needed to help them overcome their problem. After a short while, it's expected that the youth will be able to progress on his/her own without the help of the high priced tutoring service.

If a student lives in inner city Chicago, he may be motivated, and may need the same type of tutoring help, but he may not have the family income to purchase this type of tutoring, which by the way, is far more professional than most of the NO Child Left Behind tutoring that might be offered. Teachers will tell you, that their main learning hurdle for many kids, is a lack of aspirations, and lack of motivation. They come to school unprepared to learn because they don't have many people in their own family or community who have the same history of learning and achievement as do families in Park Ridge and other affluent areas. Thus, these kids need mentoring and other activities that help build aspirations and motivation, and they need tutoring that can help them build learning habits, overcome learning obstacles, and help them stay on task with homework and school projects.

This is what a tutor/mentor program like Cabrini Connections tries to provide, and one of our biggest challenges is finding the dollars to fund the staff, rent and other costs of operating this program. A second is finding volunteers who will stick with this long enough to build their own relationships with kids, and their own personal skills in tutoring and mentoring.

That's why I was really pleased to be contacted this week by Diane Palumbo who writes a blog for students and tutors, title Homework Help Today. Diane recognizes that the for-profit tutoring world is making money from their services and could use this money, and the volunteer talent of their members, to support the availability of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in high poverty areas. We've agreed to try to work together and Diane is drawing from the ideas on my blog, and writing articles on her blog, to reach out to members of the professional tutoring world to build support for our efforts.

I hope that others in the non-school education industry will copy her efforts and support us and similar organizations in cities all over the country. Thank you Diane.

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