I never used to like math but now it is my favorite subject since I have been going to math tutoring. Now I understand it" (Baker, Riet & Clendaniel, 2006: 1). Few words could more delightful to the ears of an elementary math school teacher. But what prompted this student's enthusiasm? The student became excited about math because of a program created by a rural school district that was seeking to raise its students' standardized test scores. The district took proactive action and created a partnership with the local university to formulate an after-school tutoring program, staffed by university volunteers from the elementary education program at the university.
Elementary children in grades 3-6 were chosen to participate who had math scores below the 30th percentile on the standardized test used by the state of Pennsylvania, the results of their Stanford 9 Achievement Tests, and classroom teachers' recommendations. The ratio of elementary students to university tutors was two students to each tutor. Sessions included individual meetings with tutors, snack time during which tutors 'previewed' upcoming math lessons, homework assistance, and games. "Each child has a folder that contains an information sheet for classroom teachers to guide tutoring with assigned homework and skill areas to be practiced. Additionally, teachers provide information on upcoming math topics so tutors can come more fully prepared" (Baker, Riet & Clendaniel, 2006: 1).
The program demonstrates how an elementary school's mathematics education can be enhanced by a good tutoring program. The program helped inject fun into the discipline of mathematics, provided personalized attention to struggling students, featured 'previewing' critical material to be covered the next day in class, had less structured break/snack time so students had time to 'digest' new material (no pun intended), and the tutors worked closely with the student's regular teachers. The tutors also said that they learned a great deal that would serve them well in their own classrooms while working with the teachers, and also from their students. Supervising university observers of the tutors noted they had fewer absences in their classes than non-participants. Finally, the program made effective use of community outreach, as it merged the resources of the local university and solicited the input of school and district administrators to create an effective program. Despite the occasional logistical and emotional problems created by the difficulties of using the same tutor for individual students from grade to grade, the program was deemed a success.