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September 22, 2008

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Daniel Bassill

Susan, thanks for keeping a focus on these issues in your blog, and for letting me comment from time to time. I'd like to connect the thinking from your Sept. 22 "early Math Matters" article and your Sept. 20 "Nonprofit Guide to the Economy" article.

In today's article you make a strong case for math tutoring/mentoring to be available to 1st to 3rd grade kids via non school and summer programs. In the Sept. 20 article you provided some great ideas for finding funds during tough economic times.

I encourage you to visit http://mappingforjustice.blogspot.com and look at some of the maps on the site. These are intended to help people think of all of the places in a community where a service needs to be delivered. Thus, if you talked about math for elementary school kids, each of the tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago database would be logical places to include some form of math tutoring and/or mentoring.

However, they are not equally good at stating their case or marketing their cause, thus not equally good at raising money to fund their operations, let alone have staff who might coach volunteers to mentor math. In addition, many neighborhoods don't have tutor/mentor programs. We estimate that at any given time less than 10% of the 200,000 k-12 kids living in high poverty neighborhoods are involved in structured programs that focus on on-going tutoring and/or mentoring.

If the system depends on each program to be an excellent service provider, as well as an excellent fund raiser, the system is flawed and will never reach a much larger percent of kids than it is now.

However, if articles by you and others who know how important it is to have math, arts, music and mentoring available to kids in K-12, were aimed at volunteers, donors and business leaders, you could be mobilizing resources for these programs. In fact if we identify the biggest winner or loser from the education crisis, it is the business community and our economy, and our democracy. Thus, if your articles and our candidates for president, governor, congress, etc. were motivating leaders in industry to use their own communications and advertising to mobilize volunteers and donors to support tutor/mentor programs in neighborhoods where they do business, we might create a more consistent flow of resources, and a better distribution into all neighborhoods, and thus reach more of the kids who we want to build fundamental skills in grade 1-3, and more of the kids who require continued mentoring and non-school learning all the way through college and into work.

As long as the system expects every non profit to be an exceptional fund raiser, in good or bad times, we will have a system that leaves too many kids behind because they don't have access to the mentoring and learning support they need.

I hope readers will view the blog articles on http://tutormentor.blogspot.com and integrate some of the thinking into actions that support the growth of non-school learning, arts, enrichment and mentoring programs.

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