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Tutors will ready youths for college

The program is open to Zephyrhills and Hudson high school students because of the schools' low test scores.

By KENT FISCHER

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 26, 2001


Students at Zephyrhills and Hudson high schools now have access to tutors, Saturday morning classes, test preparation courses and other extras under a new program to be run by Pasco-Hernando Community College and a national non-profit education group.

The tutoring program is supposed to help open doors to college for students at schools with low test scores. Sixteen other community colleges around the state are running similar tutoring programs at 60 low-performing Florida high schools.

Hudson and Zephyrhills are the only two high schools in Pasco that qualified for the program because they received "D" grades from the state for subpar test scores.

Overseeing the $779,000 program statewide is the College Board, the not-for-profit association of colleges and universities that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement tests. The tutoring program is part of the College Board's larger involvement in Florida school reform chartered by Gov. Jeb Bush's school reform plan.

PHCC has received $25,146 to run the tutoring program in Pasco. Sessions will last as long as the money holds out, educators said.

Although PHCC and the College Board are in charge of the programs, it is the two high schools that have hired the tutors, planned the programs and implemented them.

Hudson High is offering fun, hands-on lessons for interested students on Saturdays. The program won't be aimed at struggling students, like most of the district's other tutoring programs, said Principal Greg Wright.

Instead, teachers will plan the types of lessons they can't normally squeeze into their typical 45-minute class periods. For instance, the school wants to bring astronomers to the school from the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. The school is also using some of the program's money to provide study sessions for students boning up to take Advanced Placement exams, Wright said.

"We're looking to be creative with the money," Wright said. "We don't want your typical 'nose-in-a-book' type of tutoring."

Plans at Zephyrhills High aren't as concrete as those at Hudson. The school is offering some extra programs for students during the lull between the end of the school year and the start of summer school, Principal Jim Davis said. And it is offering some SAT prep classes and extra study sessions for advanced students who need some additional assistance.

"This is a chance to do something for the kids at the (high) end of the spectrum," Davis said.

In addition to monitoring the programs, the College Board will provide the high schools with test preparation materials and has offered teachers training classes in how they can improve their instruction, said Jenny Oren Krugman, the College Board official in charge of the organization's partnership with Florida. Whether the program continues beyond this school year depends on whether the Legislature funds it, she said.

- Kent Fischer covers education in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6241. His e-mail address is kfischer@sptimes.com.

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