The Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake (HASCL) sponsors a tutoring program under their Drug Elimination Program (DEP) which addresses the educational needs of children residing in public housing units. Over 200 children, from kindergarten to ninth grade, participate. Many of these children have learning difficulties and have experienced repeated failures in the classroom.
The DEP Tutoring Program began with 15 students in November, 1992, in two public housing complexes. By February 8, 1994, there were 120 children enrolled in tutoring from seven public housing complexes. They range in age from 5 to 15. When their parents enrolled them in the program, they ranged from a few months to two years behind their grade levels. The DEP Education Coordinator recruits and trains new volunteer tutors who are paired with children based on their learning problem.
Each child is evaluated prior to their first tutoring session and quarterly thereafter. The tutoring sessions are provided weekly for each grade level with small groups of children working together with a volunteer. Reading, math and comprehension are taught via individual lesson plans. Each child's completed work is graded and filed weekly. The DEP Education Coordinator meets with individual public school classroom teachers as needed yearly to share information and get specific feedback about learning problems and class work recommendations.
The DEP Tutoring Program is administered by the HACSL Resident Services Program. The University of Utah, Salt Lake Community College and other community groups assist by providing volunteers. The Salt Lake, Granite and Jordan School Districts provide books, supplies and lunches during the summer months. In addition, the Salt Lake County Library contributes books for an on-site library. The volunteer tutors donate 111 hours each week, the food bank donates bread, candy, cookies and fruit each month, the local school district provides classroom space, supplies and materials each year.
All children attending the tutoring program have made academic improvements. As the children improved at school, their parents often noted accompanying gains at home. They learning how to share and take turns in tutoring and how to complete their assignments with care and accuracy. The DEP law enforcement officers reported fewer problems with children who attend DEP tutoring classes.
The local schools report fewer failing grades and better attendance by children in tutoring. This, the program believes, will translate into more high school graduates, fewer gang members and a break in the cycle of generations of families who remain in public housing because of lack of education and job skills.