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Extracurricular curriculum

"Extracurricular curriculum" Continued...

Issue: "California's new governor," Oct. 4, 2003

Mart'n Navarreti is a good example. The Sacramento 13-year-old had earned A's and B's all the way through the sixth grade. But when he hit seventh-grade pre-algebra last year, he hit a wall. "Mart'n would come home very, very upset," his mother Darline told WORLD. "On every report card it would say, 'Mart'n is struggling with his homework.' Sometimes he came home crying. It was breaking my heart."

Mart'n said it seemed his classroom math teacher would mark his answers wrong, but did not take time to help him see where he was making mistakes as he worked through the problems. An after-school program staffed with college-age tutors only confused Mart'n more. Finally Ms. Navarreti called T.E.A.M. Ed. Services, a Sacramento tutoring firm founded by Shannon Maveety, a professor of teacher education at National University.

After only a few sessions with Ms. Maveety, "Mart'n just lit up," Ms. Navarreti said. "He felt so confident and started smiling again. He wasn't coming home from school upset every day." Tutoring continued through the summer, but today Mart'n feels ready to tackle eighth-grade algebra on his own.

Ms. Maveety isn't sorry she worked herself out of a job. "When parents sign up, we tell them we appreciate their business, but we want to get them to the point where they don't need us anymore. This is one of those success stories."

Less successful is the Bush administration's attempt to connect kids in failing schools with private-sector tutors. Under the president's No Child Left Behind program, 2003 was to be the first year when school districts would be required to use federal Title I funds to pay for "supplemental services"-among them, outside tutoring for children in failing schools.

Tutor.com, a leading online tutoring service, is approved in 25 states to receive Title I money for tutoring such students. But to date, "the fiscal impact has been almost negligible," said chief executive officer George Cigale. "While some school districts see that they need outside help and are welcoming us with open arms, many districts ... see this as a competitive use of funds, instead of as a way to help teachers."

Mr. Cigale blames, in part, a lack of implementation planning at the federal level. First, states must evaluate and approve individual tutoring services. Then each service must contract separately with hundreds of separate school districts. Then schools must inform parents of their choices, and parents must choose a tutoring service that meets their needs.

But there is no standard process by which all of this takes place. "What you've got is thousands of school districts reinventing the wheel thousands of times, instead of using a standard contract," Mr. Cigale said. "When you get into the details of how districts implement this program, you realize it will take years for this to run smoothly."

Such bureaucratic tangles are one reason many parents steer clear of public schools and opt instead for home education. But like their public-school counterparts, homeschoolers also are taking advantage of tutoring services. Many parents find that they're not equipped to teach certain subjects at home (chemistry, for example), or that they don't have time to adequately learn advanced high-school subjects, such as Spanish and calculus, before attempting to teach them to their kids.

Roger and Cassie Annis faced that problem with advanced high-school math. The St. Johns, Mich., couple (he's a family practice physician; she calls herself "a lawyer in my former life") seven years ago began homeschooling their three daughters. The Annises team-taught, with mom handling arts and humanities, and dad teaching math and science after he got home from seeing patients.

But as math studies grew more advanced for their 16-year-old twins Erica and Erin, now high-school juniors, teaching required more prep time-time Dr. Annis didn't have since he was running his practice. Now Erica, Erin, and Aubrey, the Annises' eighth-grader, see a math tutor at Teenworks, a tutoring firm for homeschoolers in Lansing, Mich.

Wanda Burdick, a former public-school teacher and the wife of a dairy farmer, launched Teenworks in the mid-1980s after her son J.R., then 12, convinced her that since dad stayed home with the cows, she should stay home and take care of J.R.'s education. Once she began homeschooling her own son, she noticed that many parents needed tutors for subjects they didn't feel qualified to teach. Today, Teenworks tutors reach about 600 kids in grades five through 12. A new K-4 program is also picking up steam.

The Annises are pleased with Teenworks' academics, but they especially appreciate the staff's biblical worldview. Mrs. Annis said, "The tutors have a good sort of mentoring relationship with the kids. It's wonderful to have the girls interact with Christian tutors who love what they teach."

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