Board: Too few students take advantage of tutoring help

Published 10:44 pm Friday, October 17, 2008

FRANKLIN—School board members Thursday challenged administrators to improve the participation rate of struggling students in after-school tutorial sessions.

Fewer than a third of Franklin High School students who need remediation are attending the sessions, according to numbers presented to the school board at its regular meeting Thursday night.

During the week of Sept. 15-18, a dozen, or 29 percent, of the 42 students earning less than a “C” grade in math attended the tutoring session. Twenty of 68 students needing help in history attended. Twenty-five of 96 students needing help in science participated. The best participation rate was in the English tutoring session, which 20 of 57 eligible students attended.

“The numbers are dismal,” Chairman Bill Scarboro said. “I’m concerned that we’re putting forth all of this effort and the kids aren’t coming.”

Assistant Superintendent Walter “Ricky” Clemons noted higher participation rates by students who are involved in extracurricular activities. Those students must attend the tutorial sessions in order to participate in sports or other activities.

“If you are involved in something and want to continue to be involved, to possibly have that taken away is going to spur you to be in attendance,” he said. Conversely, students who have no extracurricular involvement have no incentive to attend.

“It does concern us greatly,” Clemons said of low participation rates. “It’s just been a real challenge.”

Director of Instruction Beverly Rabil said administrators would devise an improvement plan to present at the school board’s November meeting, but board members said they want a quicker response.

“We’ve got to quit talking about it and make something happen,” Scarboro said. “This should be job one. We spent all afternoon looking at SOL (Standards of Learning) scores and AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) indicators. It is very telling data as to where we are. We saw the gaps. Folks, we’re talking about accountability. This is what accountability is all about. It’s all about you folks finding solutions.

“This has got to be addressed now. It’s the third week of October; next time we meet, it’s going to be Thanksgiving and the semester is just about gone. Be telling us how well it’s working the next time we meet.”

Board member Mona Murphy volunteered to intervene personally with parents of students who aren’t attending tutorial sessions.

“I’ll go to the house myself,” she said. “It is desperately needed to find some kind of solution. I can take it on myself to find this parent, find this child. It’s a desperate situation. We’re going downhill, and we’ve got to rise above it.”

Board members were divided on whether to use a carrot approach or a stick approach in encouraging participation.

Board member David Benton suggested extending the school day until 3:45 p.m. and making participation mandatory for struggling students.

“Those who don’t need the tutorial can leave at 2:45,” he said. “For the others, if you don’t stay, you will fail.”

Board member Johnetta Nichols said “negative incentives” won’t work.

“It’s so easy for us to demand things from students and give them negative incentives to do something, to learn,” she said. “Why don’t we put a little time and thought and come up with positive things to get kids to buy into our school system? When you’re always using negative tactics, it turns kids against education.”

“Lollipops and smiley-face stickers aren’t going to do it for these kids,” Benton replied.