The high-level vision

FosterLearningSo, here’s the vision… Children in foster care (including kin homes and children formerly in care) are matched up with students two years older.  They work together over the internet, using technologies like Skype and Scribblar, for math and science coaching.  The children in care get a consistent coach who stays with them throughout their schooling, and after two years can become coaches themselves.  The coaches collect hours towards their community service requirement, and later, can choose to be paid an hourly rate.  Lead teachers work with the coaches to ensure a high-quality, positive experience for every student.

A collection of details and a few questions I anticipate will be frequently asked:

  • Students will ideally be in Grade 6 or 7 when they begin.  We want to help with the transition to middle school, and also catch girls before any distaste for math or disbelief in their abilities kicks in.
  • Coaches will ideally be in Grade 9 when they begin, although they can be older.
  • Students need not be behind in math or science.  We will have plenty of enrichment activities for students who excel, so that they gain the experience of writing contests and talking about math with other good students.
  • Coaches need not be good at math or science.  Part of good coaching includes modeling how to find out about a topic.  Coaches will also find their own performance in math improves as they study the subject in depth with their students.
  • Traditional 1-on-1 tutoring will be a portion of the coaching.  However, that will be balanced with group sessions for two to four students to work collaboratively on an activity that covers multiple grade levels.
  • We’ll start with math and science and expand into other STEM subjects according to demand and the availability of lead teachers.
  • Coaches will receive extensive training, both before they begin and throughout the program.  They will stay current through the online forum on the website.  Training will include information on the unique needs of students in foster care to ensure that the appropriate sensitivity and respect is maintained.
  • We are starting with children in foster care because of our experience as foster parents.  We are familiar with the typical educational experiences foster children may have, for example; missing school for meetings, court dates and family visits,  periods of stress and upheaval when school is a low priority, and changing schools mid-year.  We are also impressed and inspired by the resilience and spirit of the foster children we’ve had the pleasure of working with.
  • A nominal hourly rate will be charged for coaching; tentatively$20/hr for 1-on-1 and $10/hr for group activities.  Advice and assistance will be available on the programs that pay for tutoring for children currently in care, and how to apply.  Coaches will be paid the student minimum wage, $9.60/hr.

What we need to do now:

  • Recruit coaches for September 2013 and give them their initial training.
  • Recruit students for September 2013.
  • A small amount of funding is needed to reimburse the cost of the webdomain and hosting, set up the forum software, buy a pro license for Scribblar, and a pro license for Wolfram Alpha. I would also like a classroom license for IXL.com and per-student materials from JUMP Math for students in Grades 6 to 8.

Medium-term goals:

  • Secure outside funding so that coaches can be paid even if there is a shortfall in coaching revenue, and to provide an honorarium for Lead Teachers.

Long-term goals:

  • A larger amount of funding would allow us to supply students with refurbished, used computer equipment so they can participate in the program.
  • Potential partnerships with programs such as JUMP Math and IXL, reflecting a higher volume of usage.
  • Data collection to test our interventions and activities and measure how well our program is ultimately helpful in improving educational outcomes.
  •  Research or develop software that can be used on the iPad to encourage student involvement.

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