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Underutilized Federal Program Could Help Des Moines Students

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Shortly after the "No Child Left Behind Act" began in 2001 there's been a list of schools across the country labeled Title I schools and in need of assistance.

"Simply put, it's a percentage of students proficient or not at that school. There's been a lot of criticism of No Child Left Behind."

Recent state assessment scores have placed 28 Des Moines Public Schools on a list of schools needing that assistance. Des Moines Public Schools Director of Communications, Phil Roeder said, "We need to address it. The federal government is providing support and this is one of the tools there's a lot of different challenges in education these days."

There's also hope, offered through that same controversial program that allows students at those schools and who also qualify for free or reduced meals to receive free tutoring. Roeder said, "It's a good opportunity for parents, without having to spend a dime, to give students a little help outside of the classroom. It's something that's going to benefit them and the school and be a good deal for their education."

Roeder says of the nearly 12,000 eligible students in the district a year ago, only about 1,100 signed up for the program. "It's a tool out there that is there for the taking and ready to be put to use for students and we hope parents will take a look and give it some consideration."

The Sylvan Learning Center in Johnston is one of 31 approved providers in the state of Iowa. "It just makes sense because we've been in the business over 30 years tutoring students. It gives us a chance to partner in our community and we care about the kids in our community that otherwise might not be able to get the help from Sylvan," said Chantel Boyd, the Assistant Director of Contract Services.

Boyd says that even though the goal is to see a bump in grades, there's hard evidence that the benefits of parents taking advantage of the no cost program extend well beyond the classroom. "There's so many things where do you start? Improved confidence, teamwork skills and leadership skills," said Boyd.

All skills education officials hope parents and students will take full advantage of for a bright future. Roeder said, "Our big goal in education is to make sure every kid is ready for college and career choices and the more that they spend getting ready early on, the more that will pay off down the road."

You can receive an application for the free tutoring and a list of schools in the program on the Des Moines Public Schools' website. Applications must be turned in by Oct. 15.

The program is for any student who meets the qualifying guidelines and is open to students with both excellent or poor grades.