WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla Public Schools is now enrolling students in a federally mandated free tutoring program that requires the district to allocate $300,000 this year to help bring up the test scores of low-income and under-performing children.
The first deadline for the No Child Left Behind free tutoring program is Friday.
Because four of the district's schools have failed to meet academic standards established by the No Child Left Behind guidelines, Walla Walla Public Schools is now mandated to spend up to 20 percent of its yearly Title One funding of $1.47 million on free tutoring at those four schools.
Parents with students in Garrison Middle School and Green Park, Sharpstein and Blue Ridge Elementary schools can apply for the free tutor programs and choose from state-qualified private contractors who will provide the tutoring independent of the school district.
On Saturday, district officials held a tutor provider fair, where four different tutoring companies set up booths at the district offices and provided information to interested parents.
Many of the providers took part in tutoring last year for Walla Walla schools. But the number of students participating in the 2009-2010 school year did not come near the amount of money that was allocated for tutoring, district officials said, though they could not give the exact amount that was allocated.
Last year, roughly $75,000 was paid for free tutoring for the 59 students enrolled, according to district reports on the program.
Walla Walla Public Schools spokesperson Connie Taylor-Randall said letters were sent out this summer in the parents' preferred language to inform them about the free tutoring opportunities. And a district voicemail was made this week to let parents know about the provider fair.
She noted that parents must take an active roll in the process if they want the tutoring.
"It's the parents who request this. It is a parent-driven program ... And it is primarily for people who are lower income, because if my child needed help I would be able to go get a tutor to help them," Taylor-Randall said.
But there is a good chance that students of moderate- to high-income families may also qualify, even if those students test above average.
Taylor-Randall said if there are not enough low-income and under-performing students enrolled in the first round of tutoring, other students from the four schools may also be eligible for free tutoring.
District officials were uncertain how many students would enroll this year, but they expect greater participation than last year due to the fact that two schools have been added to the program.
Lorena Aranda is the director and owner of Sol, a company that provided tutoring for 15 of the 59 students who took part in last year's program.
Aranda said her tutors will work after school and on the school grounds, and they will meet with the students one-to-four days a week, one-to-two hours per session and with a ratio of one-to-five students per tutor.
"Parents need to know that they have a choice. And knowledge is power. And this No Child Left Behind is truly an equalizing choice," Aranda said.
She pointed out that students of the four schools can also take part in mandatory transfers to other schools where their parents feel they will perform better.
However, the deadline to change schools under the No Child Left Behind entitlement has passed, Taylor-Randall said.
District officials recommend that any interested parents from the four school take the time to enroll their children, and each school office should have the forms on hand.
The providers can also help enroll student.
The four providers at Saturday's fair were: Sol, 866-204-7309; ATS, 800-297-2119; Highline Tutoring, 206-276-6494; and Advantage Point Learning, 800-570-8864.