Clearfield and Layton high schools have the highest dropout rates in the Davis School District.
Last year, 159 students failed to graduate from Clearfield and 103 dropped out of Layton. The district's other four high schools averaged only 29.But help is on the way.
By next week, 350 to 400 "academically disadvantaged" students at Clearfield and Layton will be getting one-on-one math and reading instruction from about 200 students currently being trained as tutors.
Though peer tutoring is not a new concept, this will be the first time it has been organized, controlled and evaluated.
"(Some) high school students do need this tutoring and extended help to graduate," said Susan Ross, the district's director of programs for at-risk students.
Ross is administering the Davis project with a $145,000 grant awarded to the district by the U.S. Department of Education under the department's Basic Skills Assistance Program.
Emphasizing the Davis project's motto, "Friend to friend," Ross said same-age tutoring has proven to be successful.
Educators will identify the "at risk" students by looking at family-related problems, socio-economic data, excessive absences, handicaps, lack of social skills or self-esteem, teen pregnancy or substance abuse. All of those factors can contribute to a student's lack of performance in the classroom.
Students identified as being at risk academically will be given four ways for their educational needs to be met:
- Tutors will be available during each period of the regular school day in classrooms equipped with computers.
- Before-school tutoring will be offered from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. After-school tutoring will be available from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- Two teachers and two student tutors will staff a "homework hotline" from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. If the question is too difficult to solve by phone, the student will be invited to come to the hotline center.
- Students get five vouchers, each of which is good for an hour's worth of tutoring at any place and at any time that can be arranged with the tutors.
Tutors who assist other students during regular school time will be given academic credit. Tutors working before or after school will be paid $3.80 an hour. All tutors will be supervised by teachers.
The basic requirement for a tutor is a 3.0 grade-point average, but exceptions will be made if students show particular ability in teaching others or have a good relationship with a student in need.
Ross said she hopes the program will improve the at-risk students' GPAs, encouraging them to stay in school and graduate.
Ray Briscoe, a Davis School Board member, said he believes the program also could help students who graduate from high school but are having a hard time getting accepted at the Davis Applied Technology Center because of poor math skills.
Ross said she has a list of those students and will immediately try to prepare them to be ready for the center's fall quarter.
Layton and Clearfield high schools are two of only 30 schools nationwide to participate in the one-time $4.7 million project that educators hope will become permanent.
"We are automatically a showcase project because they want to convince Congress that it's a needed program," said Susan Ross, a Davis School District administrator.