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300,000 Kids Qualify for Free Tutoring

June 17, 2005|Rachana Rathi | Times Staff Writer

Nearly 300,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students are eligible for free tutoring from private agencies during the upcoming school year, district officials said Thursday.

Students who attend one of 173 low-performing schools under the No Child Left Behind Act and are eligible for free or discount lunches can sign up for federally funded supplemental tutoring during the 2005-06 school year.

The schools are in low-income areas and receive federal money to supplement their curriculum and help their high numbers of disadvantaged students meet academic standards. Schools considered low-performing under the federal law are required to set aside 20% of their federal funds for supplemental tutoring, district spokeswoman Susan Cox said.

Parents can select their top two choices from 40 private, state-approved providers, including Sylvan Learning Center and the Princeton Review.

"This program is the equivalent to handing the parents a $1,500 check to use toward their child's education," said Los Angeles Board of Education President Jose Huizar.

"These are the types of services that many middle- and upper-class parents get for their children," he said. "And here we are offering them to low-income students who need the help and support."

Los Angeles Unified was among 24 tutoring providers during the 2004-05 school year. But it is barred from offering services to its students during the next academic year because it was classified as needing improvement under the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind law this year, district officials said.

The federal law required California to place the district on a watch list because the number of students doing well on standardized math and English tests failed to increase two years in a row.

Los Angeles Unified is one of 184 districts that would face increased scrutiny from Sacramento within two years if they failed to improve.

During the current school year, just 28,000 of the district's 230,000 eligible students signed up for supplemental tutoring. But many of them never received tutoring because they failed to show up, said Pilar Buelna, director of the Parent Information and Resource Center, which works with the district to disseminate information to parents. About 10% of eligible students signed up for tutoring during the 2002-03 school year, she said.

Huizar said the district needed to be more aggressive in its community outreach. Los Angeles Unified is currently working with community, faith-based and nonprofit organizations to spread the word.

Information booklets and application forms were mailed to parents in late May and are available in school offices.

Applications must be submitted by June 30 for students to begin being tutored in September. The deadline to apply for services beginning in November is Sept. 30.

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