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Bringing homework help to California students
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Bringing homework help to California students

Despite teachers’ good intentions, homework tends to be students’ least favorite after-school activity.  Not only are assignments often difficult to do, but sometimes kids are unable to get the homework assistance they need at home, prompting many of them to come to the library for help.

Luckily, the California State Library (CSL) recognizes this need and so has supported Live Homework Help—the online tutoring service provided by Tutor.com—for the past five years through Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds.  Last year alone, almost 72,000 tutoring sessions were transacted thanks to the CSL’s program.  Not surprisingly, the combined total number of questions about science (13,000 queries), English/grammar (12,000), and social studies (5,500) was far less than the number of math-related (41,000) tutoring sessions logged in.  Although the service is available to kids grades 4 -12, as well as to college freshmen, most of the users come from high school (41%) and middle school (38%).  However, students of all ages love the service.  "My tutor, Ginger, was really helpful in outlining what my essay should look like,” one 10th grader offered, while a younger student praised helpers Kalie and Sarah.  “I feel very confident now," the 8th grader said.

To allow more libraries to participate in the program, State Librarian Susan Hildreth asked last year’s library participants to pay at least 25% of this year’s Live Homework Help subscription costs, freeing up LSTA monies to add more libraries in 2006/07.  New participant libraries were determined through a competitive process that asked applicants to show strong evidence of student need as well as strategies for marketing and sustaining the program.  Twenty-one public libraries were eventually invited on board, increasing the current number of participating jurisdictions to forty-six—plus the state librarian wants to add even more libraries next year.  The process for applying to participate in 2007/08 will be announced by mid-March.

In addition to Live Homework Help, the CSL is piloting a second online tutoring service, called Brainfuse, which until now has been used exclusively by school districts.  Similar to Live Homework Help, Brainfuse enables students to communicate one-on-one with tutors in real time, while also offering self-paced study modules by grade and subject.  Students can also leave their homework with a tutor, who will then provide feedback within twenty-four hours.  Brainfuse was launched at both the Palmdale and Santa Clara County libraries earlier this year.  If the pilot is successful, then the CSL hopes to extend this service to other jurisdictions throughout California.

For further information about Live Homework Help or Brainfuse, please contact Library Programs Consultant Cindy Mediavilla at cmediavilla@library.ca.gov or 310-915-8588.

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