NEWSLETTERS
The Education Innovator #7
Volume III
Archived Information


The Education Innovator
 February 22, 2005 • Number 7
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What's inside...
Feature
Tutor.com
What's New
Secretary Spellings says history should be part of understanding President's Day; the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) seeks nominations of technical reviewers for Comprehensive Centers competition; Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) launches new Master of Arts in Community Arts degree; the seventh annual collection of Promising Partnership Practices is released; Reading is Fundamental (RIF) publishes new brochure highlighting programs; Falmouth Institute hosts NativeTech 2005; University of California Television (UCTV) creates "The Teacher's P.E.T.;" and Clean Sweep USA receives Toyota grant.
Innovations in the News
North Carolina high school receives Advanced Placement award, plus information on Advanced Placement, American history, leadership, magnet schools, and teacher quality.

Tutor.com: Virtual Relief for Homework Headaches
The school day has ended. Students across the country pull out their homework, but as many of them begin, they encounter some difficulty. The assignments are challenging, and the students do not understand the concepts required to complete them. Parents want to help, but most of them cannot remember the last time they had to multiply fractions, solve for "x," or write a complex thesis statement. Thousands of children and their families have found a solution to this problem with Tutor.com.

Tutor.com provides one-on-one learning and information services to people in the United States and internationally. Using Internet technology, Tutor.com links students and other information-seekers to professional librarians and subject-area experts.

Tutor.com is also an approved provider of supplemental educational services in 25 states across the country. "Supplemental educational services" under No Child Left Behind are free tutoring and other academic assistance available for low-income children who attend Title I schools that have been designated by the state as in need of improvement for two years or more. This tutoring may be offered in math, reading/language arts, and other core subjects, before or after school, on weekends, or in the summer.

Live Homework Help, the company's flagship and most popular program, was introduced to libraries in 2001. This service provides one-on-one assistance in math, science, social studies, and English to students in 4th through 12th grade, and is available seven days a week from 2:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. Eastern time. If students have questions about writing scientific hypotheses or solving geometry problems, they can log onto the Internet from their home or library computers, link to the Live Homework Help website via the Tutor.com homepage, and immediately connect with live tutors who can walk them through the process of finding answers.

Tutors with Live Homework Help are often certified teachers, retired teachers, professors, and graduate school students. In order to apply, potential tutors must submit three teaching or tutoring samples. Once hired, all tutors complete a rigorous training and certification program that includes technology education, training in online tutoring etiquette, mock tutoring sessions, and professional development seminars, similar to those for schoolteachers, to improve the tutors' instructional skills in the online environment. Many tutors specialize in honors-level or Advanced Placement courses. Every tutor also undergoes a full background check. As tutors continue with the program, they meet with mentors who assess their work at regular intervals. Mentors must have been with the program for at least one year, have high tutee ratings, and must be recommended by other senior tutors.

Although students who use Live Homework Help are primarily in the elementary through high school grade levels, college freshmen are allowed to log-in to the site as well. According to George Cigale, founder and CEO of Tutor.com, "Students need help during the after school hours even if during the day they're in a classroom with the best teacher in the world..." He notes the program is simple to use and that "kids don't need any [computer] training." Of course, students with low levels of literacy would need extra help and guidance with content from an adult.

To start a session, a student must enter his username and password, then select a subject and grade level. Once the student accesses the program, he is immediately connected to a tutor who has been selected for him based on his tutoring needs in an "Online Classroom." In this virtual classroom, the student and tutor can chat in an informal style akin to instant messaging. Their discussion and any work that they complete are posted on an interactive "whiteboard," which they both can view and modify. The student and tutor can access a number of computer drawing and mathematical tools, which makes graphs and diagrams easier for the pair to visualize and work on together. If a student needs help researching a report, the tutor can lead a session where the pair can co-browse the Internet.

Parents are encouraged to monitor their children's online activity and share their children's tutoring experience with teachers. Parents and students who wish to customize their one-on-one tutoring sessions may schedule specific times to work with the same tutor. Tutor.com provides a "Tutor Profile" webpage, which contains all tutors' educational histories, their schedules, listings of subjects that they are certified to tutor, and statements that explain their individual tutoring styles, interests, and reasons for tutoring. Previous tutees can rate the tutors with a maximum of five stars, and these ratings are also posted with each profile.

In many areas of the country there is no charge to use Live Homework Help, because the library covers the cost. Students need only an Internet-enabled computer and a library card, which they use to log-in to the site. There is a flat-rate fee to subscribe in other areas, while some parents may choose to hire tutors at hourly rates for private, online instruction in any of the Homework Help subjects. Students who use Tutor.com as a supplemental educational services provider may access the system through computers at school or an after school program.

The Virtual Reference Toolkit is another Tutor.com service. This program gives reference and search assistance to library patrons even if they are not at the library. Users can connect to the Virtual Reference Toolkit from any Internet-capable computer and can interact with a library aide or a member of the Tutor.com reference staff. This service enables libraries to extend the personalized services traditionally offered only at the physical reference desk, and can be particularly helpful if a student is doing a research paper or looking for primary source information. Both Live Homework Help and the Virtual Reference Toolkit are available in Spanish.

Tutor.com currently serves over 4,600 academic, public, military, and special libraries throughout the world. The program primarily works with libraries, but it also serves after school organizations and schools. Live Homework Help assisted nearly 270,000 students in 2004, and 94 percent reported in post-session surveys that they benefited from the service and would recommend it to a friend.

As mentioned previously, Tutor.com is an approved SES provider in 25 states. The U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) also funds a new initiative from the Michigan Community College Association (MICA), which is bringing the Virtual Reference Toolkit to 18 publicly funded colleges in the state.

Resources: Note: Tutor.com is one example of a tutorial, supplemental educational services program. The program does not have evidence of effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation and may not have the same benefits for all students.

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What's New
From the U. S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings issued a statement saying that we have a responsibility to teach our children about the presidents and the history of the times they lived in as we celebrate President's Day. (Feb. 21)

The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) is seeking nominations of technical reviewers to evaluate applications for a Spring 2005 competition of 20 new regional Comprehensive Centers. For more information, please contact Enid Simmons at enid.simmons@ed.gov. Applications may be sent to Ms. Simmons via email or at U.S. Department of Education, Room 3E309, 400 Maryland Avenue, NW 20202 by March 1, 2005. (Feb. 16)

From OII

The School Leadership Program grant competition is now open. The purpose of the grants are to assist high need local education agencies (LEAs) develop, enhance, and expand innovative programs to recruit, train, and mentor principals and vice principals. (Feb. 22)

Arts Education

This summer, the Maryland Institute College of Art (MD) will launch a new Master of Arts in Community Arts program. This degree will provide coursework and practical experience to visual artists who want to pursue a career in arts-based youth and community development. The degree is completed over two summers and one academic year. It includes a 10-month residency serving one or more community organizations and classes taught by MICA faculty. The application deadline for this summer's class is March 1, 2005. (Jan. 14)

Parental Involvement

The National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) at Johns Hopkins University has released the seventh annual collection of Promising Partnership Practices featuring 85 school, family, and community partnership programs that help students achieve academic and life skills success. (Fall 2004)

Reading

A new brochure, published by Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and the U.S. Department of Education, highlights RIF programs across the country. The Parents as Teachers (PAT) Shared Beginnings program is just one of the projects featured in the publication. PAT helps teen parents learn about child development and how to use books to build healthy relationships with their children. RIF is an OII-funded program. (Feb. 15)

Technology

The Falmouth Institute will sponsor NativeTech 2005, a series of workshops on how tribal organizations can develop and maintain Information Technology infrastructures. NativeTech 2005 will run from May 16-18. To learn more or to register, call 1-800-992-4489. (Feb. 16)

University of California Television (UCTV) has launched "The Teacher's P.E.T." (Professional Education for Teachers) television program, a free resource that helps teachers keep informed about research developments in their subject areas, and assists them in providing resources to students and parents. The companion website aligns each program with California State Board of Education Content Standards and provides broadcast schedules. (Feb. 16)

The Florida Learning Alliance, a Technology Innovation Challenge Grant award winner, received a grant from Bank of America to enable approximately 25,000 students and teachers in rural Florida to access the SAS in School's web-based educational curriculum for the next two years. (Feb. 18)

Clean Sweep U.S.A., a project of Keep America Beautiful, Inc., has received a grant from the Toyota USA Foundation to support its web-based environmental science program about recycling, environmental issues, and effective waste management. The website, which correlates to national science standards, contains six activity links with animation, games, and resources for both teachers and students. The program also received funding from OII. [More-Keep America Beautiful] (Jan. 25)

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Innovations in the News

Advanced Placement
East Chapel Hill High School (NC) was selected as one of 12 recipients of the national Siemens Award, which recognizes schools for their outstanding commitment to Advanced Placement courses. Newsweek recently cited the school as the 52nd best high school in the nation, boasting 16 AP courses. Last year 600 students enrolled in AP classes and took 1,112 AP exams. [More-The Daily Tar Heel] (Feb. 8)

American History
A new album of songs entitled Song of America, to be released in the spring of 2006, will detail how music is connected with our nation's heritage. The songs will focus on topics such as colonial times, the Revolutionary War, the expansion of the West, and World War II. Grammy-winner David Macius and Janet Reno, former U.S. Attorney General, will produce the album, which will be distributed to schools with an accompanying teacher's guide. [More-USA Today] (Feb. 14)

Sixty-nine different languages are spoken in the Ft. Wayne (IN) school district and education officials are concerned about students' achieving "cultural competency." Hana Stith, curator and founder of the African/African-American Historical Museum, says the museum can work with schools to teach about the accomplishments of minority groups during Black History Month and throughout the academic year. [More-The Journal Gazette] (Feb. 14)

Leadership
With a $10 million Gates Foundation grant, New Leaders for New Schools will start a "national urban principal corps" in 2,000 urban schools over the next decade. New Leaders for New Schools is profiled in the OII book, Innovative Pathways to School Leadership. [More-USA Today] (Feb. 15)

Magnet Schools
The Philadelphia School District (PA) plans to expand its network of magnet schools. The plan calls for 9 new magnet schools, which are part of an overall agenda to create 28 smaller college-prep high schools throughout the city by 2008. Officials hope that the new schools will reduce enrollment in the district's poorly performing large high schools. [More-The Philadelphia Inquirer] (Feb. 10) [free registration]

Teacher Quality
In fall 2006, Florida will need 30,000 new teachers. Florida education officials are starting an alternative route to certification program that will use the state's community colleges to train thousands of new teachers. The "educator preparation institutes" will be housed also at Florida universities and private colleges. People with bachelor's degrees and teaching aspirations can go through a yearlong boot camp program designed to give them the skills they need. [More-St. Petersburg Times] (Feb. 16)

A new report by the Education Trust-West, California's Hidden Teacher Spending Gap, on salaries of teachers in California, outlines a salary gap within districts across the state. The report shows that teachers in poorer schools typically earn less than those in more affluent areas within a given district, the direct result of seniority hiring and budget policies. [More-San Francisco Chronicle] (Feb. 16)

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009