Making learning fun for students and affordable for parents

Making the grade can be costly. But some students are seeing big gains without breaking the bank.

With help from Sylvan Learning Center of Birmingham, Tarrant City Schools' 21st Century Community Learning Center is offering after school tutoring and homework help to low income students at a discounted rate. The students in kindergarten through sixth grade are tutored twice a week and participate in enrichment activities the other days.

"It's fun," said third grader Brianna Ward.{}"We learn a lot and on Wednesday, we do token exchange."

In this after school tutoring program, tokens traded for candy and toys replace grades. Students are setting token goals.

"[I want] at least a hundred or sixty to seventy because that's how many the big stuff cost.{}said Brianna.

That{}in turn is motivating{}students to raise their hands.

"That's what you want. You want to motivate kids. You want to be excited about learning," said Dr. Shelly Mize, Tarrant City Schools superintendent.

The students are learning{}inside and outside the classroom.

This type of attention would normally cost 60 dollars an hour. But a 375 thousand dollar 21st Century Community Learning Center grant is reducing the cost to twenty dollars a week.

Now, this after school program has 90 children waiting to get in.

"They make it fun," said Brianna.

The program launched last year. According to school officials,{}90 percent of the{}students who participated in the reading program improved their skills after less than 60 hours of help. It's also being credited for keeping students in school and decreasing conduct problems.

After the grant expires, Dr. Mize says the district will apply for another one.

But Sylvan Learning Center of Birmingham's director also{}hopes to develop partnerships with local businesses.