There is still plenty of money being spent at Tweed. ARIS is still going strong....
Read it and weep! Tutors get cut
BY Meredith Kolodner
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, April 19th 2009, 4:00 AM
A city-funded volunteer program with a great track record of helping struggling elementary school kids learn to read is on the chopping block.
Experience Corps, which uses local retirees, has helped hundreds of children who could barely read reach grade level within one school year - showing a 60% higher improvement rate than their peers.
The city put up $400,000 this year, but that money ran out in December.
"She wasn't reading to me at all before the tutoring," said Iesha Lewis, whose daughter Heaven is a first-grader at PS 129 in Harlem, where the average first-grade class has 26 kids.
"She would read 'cat' and 'dog,' only words that are so common," said Lewis, 22, of the South Bronx. "I was extremely worried. I really didn't know what was wrong."
Heaven began the program in the fall and her proud mom says she now comes home and reads books almost every day after school.
"I couldn't do any of the quizzes because you had to be able to read the book, and I couldn't," said Heaven, 6. "Now I can read the hard books."
A new study by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis looked at 23 schools in three cities, including New York, that have the volunteer program.
About 94% of the students qualified for free lunch and were black or Latino. A quarter were English language learners.
Reading comprehension gains were the same regardless of ethnicity, income level, gender or language ability.
The tutors are given 30 hours of training, about $60 per week for lunch and transportation. They work with students one-on-one and in small groups.
"These are grandmas," said Cheryl Ault, principal of PS 81 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where 100 children lost their tutors this semester because of a lack of funding.
"They're so patient," Ault said. "They make a big production when the children make a step forward. If I had the money, I'd pay for it myself."
The Department of Education defended the cut.
"These are tough times," said department spokeswoman Ann Forte. "In tough times, we're forced to make painful decisions."
Private money has also been hard to come by. There are only four schools that still have the program, and only because of an emergency grant from the Pinkerton Foundation.
David Jones, president of the Community Services Society, which launched the program in the city, has been trying to raise money to keep it alive.
Jones said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told him he could find funding for the program if there was independent evidence that it was closing the achievement gap.
"Now we have a study that demonstrates that," the former youth services commissioner said. "This is one of the most unique programs I've seen.
"If you don't catch them at the right time, these can be the kids who never catch up."