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The Project's National Literacy Program -- Frequently Asked Questions

Please click on any question below.

1. What is the Project's National Literacy Program?
2. Is this a required course? Are the undergraduates required to participate?
3. Once an undergraduate enrolls, what are the requirements for the course?
4. Are there any prerequisites for these courses?
5. Do the undergraduates pay tuition to take these courses?
6. Which college departments are eligible to offer this course?
7. Which undergraduates are eligible to enroll in these courses?
8. Where do the undergraduates tutor?
9. Who selects the elementary schools where the undergraduates will tutor?
10. Let's say an undergraduate takes this course in Economics. Will the undergraduate tutor the children in the elementary school in Economics?
11. I know the undergraduates work as tutors. Do they do anything else in the schools?
12. Why such a strong emphasis on tutoring?
13. What additional benefits, if any, do the children get from this Project?
14. What are the chances that college undergraduates will be successful tutors?
15. How do you know that the tutors from the National Education Project are effective?
16. Who decides which classroom teachers will get a tutor?
17. Who decides which children will receive tutoring?
18. Who decides the specific subjects in which the children will be tutored?
19. What sort of training is provided to the tutors?
20. Which books, instructional materials, and teaching methodologies do the undergraduates use?
21. I know the undergraduates tutor in elementary schools, but where exactly in the school building do they work?
22. You say that the undergraduates in this Project are reliable and that they also are accountable on a daily basis. But how do you know that they actually show up to do the work?
23. Are the undergraduates paid to do the tutoring?
24. Is there any cost to the children or to the elementary schools for the tutors?
25. Who funds the National Education Project?





Q. What is the Project's National Literacy Program?
 
A. The Project's National Literacy Program has four main purposes:
  1. To encourage colleges and universities across the country to offer three-credit, elective courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences that combine experience and theory at the same time and provide undergraduates with a more realistic education than they can get through courses that provide classroom theory alone.

    In a word, these courses are designed to inject experience into the search for Truth.

  2. To provide reliable and effective tutors on a massive scale to children throughout the country who must have this help if they are to master the basic literacy skills that are required for employment in a technological economy.

    As an indication of the remarkable effectiveness of the tutors from this Project, please see Results of the Tutoring for several actual evaluations written by classroom teachers.

  3. To instill in college undergraduates and in elementary school children a greater awareness of the importance of The United States Constitution, using the two copies of the U.S. Constitution autographed several years ago by the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.

  4. To create a rebirth of learning across this country that will rival the Golden Age of Pericles.

In these courses, which may be offered by various academic departments such as Sociology, Economics, Philosophy, Management, and Elementary Education, undergraduates obtain real-world experience by working as tutors six hours each week of the semester in elementary schools that are selected for their ability to provide a graphic illustration of the academic discipline as it exists in the real world.

The undergraduates also are required to meet in weekly seminars with their supervising professor. In these seminars, the students' experience in the community is matched against the theories of the academic discipline.

In this way, the undergraduates get a mix of experience and theory at the same time, and a deeper and more profound understanding of the academic discipline than they can get in the college classroom alone. (This, of course, is not very new. Courses that combine experience and theory at the same time have been considered to be the highest form of learning in Western culture since the time of Galileo.)

Academic credit serves to acknowledge that the undergraduates are learning things about the various academic disciplines that they genuinely needed to know. In addition to their educational merit, however, these courses also have the following benefits for undergraduates:

  1. These courses provide undergraduates with work experience in the real world, the sort of experience that will help them to make more knowledgeable and realistic decisions regarding a college major and subsequent career.

  2. It is this same work experience that will help the undergraduates to get a job upon graduation, since they will be able to show employers a clear record of achievement at something genuinely important; that is, teaching someone to read.

  3. And, not least, these courses permit undergraduates to learn the "old virtues" of duty, obligation, and compassion.

For additional information, please see: Purpose and History of this Project

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Q. Is this a required course? Are the undergraduates required to participate?
 
A. No, these courses are only offered by the colleges as "electives," making this a true voluntary program.
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Q. Once an undergraduate enrolls, what are the requirements for the course?
 
A. Each course, regardless of the academic department offering the course, has five basic requirements. To receive credit for the course, the undergraduates are required to:
  1. Tutor five hours each week of the semester. (Each undergraduate is required to produce a minimum of 50 hours of tutoring per semester; that is, five hours of tutoring per week x the 10 weeks in a semester.)

  2. Attend a weekly seminar with the college professor supervising the course. (In these weekly seminars, the professor matches the undergraduate's experience in the community against the relevant theories of the academic discipline, for example Sociology.)

  3. Submit a one-page report each three weeks of the semester to the professor teaching the course.

  4. Keep a private journal.

  5. Submit a Final Report to their college faculty supervisor at the end of the semester.

As determined by each college, the course may be offered as "pass/fail" or for a letter grade.

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Q. Are there any prerequisites for these courses?
 
A. There are no prerequisites, although, as a general matter, these courses would not be open to first-semester freshmen.
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Q. Do the undergraduates pay tuition to take these courses?
 
A. Yes, the undergraduates who enroll in these courses pay to the college or university the standard tuition that is required for any three-credit course.
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Q. Which college departments are eligible to offer this course?
 
A. Any academic department that takes its expression in the real world is eligible to participate, e.g., Sociology, Elementary Education, Philosophy, and Management.

For example, several years ago the course was offered by the Economics Department at the University of Miami, and, in assessing the educational value that this course had for the undergraduates, the Economics professor wrote:

"The field experience brought a dimension to the [undergraduates'] education which would otherwise have been absent.

"The practical experience gave them insights into social realities which would have been nearly impossible to impart in a pure classroom environment, and this also made them think much more critically about many concepts which they had encountered on a purely intellectual level.

"Coming from an abstract discipline like Economics, I found this particularly gratifying." (Emphasis supplied.)

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Q. Which undergraduates are eligible to enroll in these courses?
 
A. As a practical matter, virtually all of the nation's 10,000,000 college students, regardless of their major, are eligible to participate, since these courses are offered as "electives," and since undergraduates, generally, must take elective courses to get a degree. This has two important benefits:
  1. With 10,000,000 college students among the 50 states, the potential supply of tutors is national in scope and so vast in sheer numbers as to be virtually inexhaustible, not only now, but as far into the future as anyone can foresee.

    For this reason, the National Education Project is able to match the nation's illiteracy problem on its own scale.

  2. These courses have a fundamental practicality for undergraduates, since the tutoring that is required by the course is not an "extracurricular" activity that conflicts with the undergraduate's obligation to study; rather, the tutoring is done as part of a three-credit elective course that actually moves the undergraduate toward a college degree.
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Q. Where do the undergraduates tutor?
 
A. The undergraduates from this Project tutor in elementary schools only.
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Q. Who selects the elementary schools where the undergraduates will tutor?
 
A. Each college or university is responsible for selecting the elementary schools where the undergraduates will tutor. To be eligible to receive tutors, an elementary school:
  1. Must have a demonstrated need for tutors;

  2. Must be a non-profit institution;

  3. May be either public or parochial; and

  4. For logistical reasons, the elementary schools should be located near the college or university.
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Q. Let's say an undergraduate takes this course in Economics. Will the undergraduate tutor the children in the elementary school in Economics?
 
A. No, the undergraduates, regardless of the course in which they are registered, will always tutor the children in basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, and always under the direct supervision of the elementary school classroom teacher.

The required weekly seminar on campus with the Economics professor, however, is where the examination of economics comes into play, specifically the profound effect that economic forces have on the lives of the children the undergraduates are tutoring.

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Q. I know the undergraduates work as tutors. Do they do anything else in the schools?
 
A. The undergraduates in this Project are required to work as tutors, and only as tutors for the entire semester. They are not permitted to engage in any other activity. To make the necessary distinction, the undergraduates in this Project are not "teacher's aides," "mentors," "interns," or "student teachers."

Further, the undergraduates:
  1. Do not grade papers for the classroom teacher;

  2. Do not monitor the cafeteria at lunchtime;

  3. Do not supervise recess;

  4. Do not do office work for the school principal; and

  5. Are not permitted to work with the class as one large group.

The undergraduates in this Project work as tutors in the old, classical sense of the term, and they are required to work with the children on a 1:1 or a 1:2 ratio, or in very small groups. The tutors are not allowed to work with the children unless a classroom teacher is present at all times. There are no exceptions.

Each undergraduate is required to tutor 50 hours per semester; that is, five hours of tutoring per week x the 10 weeks in a semester.

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Q. Why such a strong emphasis on tutoring?
 
A.
  1. Tutoring is what the children in the community genuinely need. For many children, the plain fact is that they must receive tutoring in basic subjects if they are to master the literacy skills that are essential for employment in the technological age.

  2. Tutoring is the most effective form of instruction ever devised by human society. (Even Alexander the Great had a tutor.)

  3. As the National Education Project has demonstrated in a number of cities across the country, the undergraduates are superbly effective as tutors when working in a supervised and properly structured environment (that is, under the direct supervision of classroom teachers -- please see Results of the Tutoring); and

  4. For any number of reasons, the traditional teacher/student ratio of 1:30 or so simply doesn't work for many children. If they are to learn, these children must have individual attention, and this is what the tutors from the National Education Project provide.
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Q. What additional benefits, if any, do the children get from this Project?
 
A.

It should be said that the children learn not only reading, writing, and arithmetic from the tutors; they also learn the greater lesson, which is that they are capable of learning.

Moreover, because the tutors are from the local colleges, the children come to see college as a part of their future, a future for which the tutors, in actual fact, are helping to prepare them academically.

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Q. What are the chances that college undergraduates will be successful tutors?
 
A. The chances for success are very high, since:
  1. The tutoring is simply helping the kids from the neighborhood with their homework; and

  2. All tutoring is done in the back of the classroom and under the direct supervision of classroom teachers.
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Q. How do you know that the tutors from the National Education Project are effective?
 
A. We have the results to prove it. For independent written evaluations that demonstrate the effectiveness of the tutors from this Project, please click on any of the following:
  1. Evaluations of the Effectiveness of the Tutors by Classroom Teachers

  2. Evaluations by the Principals of Three Public Elementary Schools

  3. Letter from a Parent

  4. Evaluation by a College Professor

  5. Evaluation by a College Academic Dean
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Q. Who decides which classroom teachers will get a tutor?
 
A. Classroom teachers must request a tutor from the principal of their elementary school. No teacher will get a tutor unless the teacher volunteers to accept a tutor into his or her classroom.
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Q. Who decides which children will receive tutoring?
 
A. The classroom teachers make these decisions, which only makes sense since it is the classroom teachers who know best which individual children in their class need tutoring.
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Q. Who decides the specific academic subjects in which the children will be tutored?
 
A. Again, this is the responsibility of the classroom teachers, since they know best the specific subject areas in which each child may need help.
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Q. What sort of training is provided to the tutors?
 
A.

As the National Education Project is structured, all tutoring is done by the undergraduates during the regular school day, in the back of the classroom, and under the direct supervision of classroom teachers; as a result, the relationship between the classroom teacher and the tutor is absolutely critical to the success of the tutors.

The undergraduates must be willing to do what the teachers ask them to do, and in the way the teachers ask them to do it.

For this reason, the only training that is acceptable is the on-the-job training provided by the classroom teachers, and no outside third parties, such as "tutor trainer" organizations, are permitted to inject themselves between the tutors and the classroom teachers.

Moreover, to establish an effective tutoring environment, the classroom teachers have a number of fundamental responsibilities, including

  1. Providing daily supervision and guidance to the tutor;

  2. Resolving any problems that may arise;

  3. Reviewing the work of the tutor on a daily basis; and

  4. Providing to the college faculty member at the end of each semester a Classroom Teacher's One-Page, End-of-Semester Evaluation Form, which classroom teachers use to measure the advances of the children in reading, writing, and mathematics during the previous semester.

    As an indication of the remarkable effectiveness of the tutors from this Project, please see Results of the Tutoring for several actual evaluations written by classroom teachers.

Although classroom teachers volunteer to have a tutor in their classroom, the Project's experience is that teachers actually line up to get these tutors, since virtually no one can provide reliable tutors at no cost.

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Q. Which books, instructional materials, and teaching methodologies do the undergraduates use?
 
A. Because the classroom teachers know best which individual children need help and in which specific subjects, the teachers decide:
  1. Which specific children will receive tutoring;

  2. The length of time each child will receive tutoring;

  3. The specific subjects (e.g., multiplication tables, spelling, long division, etc.) in which the children will be tutored; and

  4. The books, instructional materials, and teaching methodologies that will be used by the tutors.
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Q. I know the undergraduates tutor in elementary schools, but where exactly in the school building do they work?
 
A. As the National Education Project is structured, the undergraduates work at all times in a classroom and under the direct supervision of classroom teachers; that is, the tutors are not allowed to work with the children unless a teacher is present at all times. There are no exceptions.

As a practical matter, the undergraduates tutor in the back of the classroom, usually tutoring children on a 1:1 or a 1:2 ratio, while the teacher conducts the larger class.

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Q. You say that the undergraduates in this Project are reliable and that they also are accountable on a daily basis. But how do you know that they actually show up to do the work?
 
A. These courses are taken as "electives," making this a voluntary program for the undergraduates. However, once the undergraduates are enrolled in the course, they are required to fulfill the requirements for this course, just as they would for any other course offered by the college.

The undergraduates who enroll in these courses are required to tutor five hours per week for the entire semester. The undergraduates tutor on a regular schedule (for example, Monday and Wednesday mornings from 9:00 to 11:30), and they are required to tutor a minimum of 50 hours per semester (that is, five hours per week x the 10 weeks in a semester).

The undergraduates work during the regular school day, and they must sign in and sign out for each tutoring session in an Attendance Book that is kept in the central office of the elementary school in which they are tutoring. There are no excused absences.

In addition, at mid-semester and also at the end of the semester, the college professor responsible for the course provides to the National Education Project a one-page Report of Hours of Tutoring Produced, which shows the precise number of hours of tutoring produced by the undergraduates. These numbers are drawn from the Attendance Book at the elementary school where the undergraduates are tutoring.

As a result, and because the tutoring is done as part of a college course, the undergraduates in this Project are reliable, accountable on a daily basis, and remarkably effective.

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Q. Are the undergraduates paid to do the tutoring?
 
A. No.
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Q. Is there any cost to the children or to the elementary schools for the tutors?
 
A. No, there is no cost whatsoever to the children or to the schools.
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Q. Who funds the National Education Project?
 
A. The National Education Project, Inc. is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation that is funded by contributions from corporations, foundations, law firms, and from the general public.

All contributions are welcome and we would be grateful for your help. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the National Education Project, please Click Here.

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