Technology, Tutors Help Dallas ISD Students Improve Literacy

The constant chatter of excited first graders is something reading tutor Jim Buffington is not used to. His tutoring sessions usually occur over the phone, while he's in his office at Intuit.

Thanks to a program called TutorMate, tutors like Buffington are having a major impact in Dallas ISD classrooms, without stepping foot in them.

"For busy professionals who don't always have time to get out of their office, TutorMate is a great partnership with Dallas ISD. You can make a difference in the life of students and still be right there in your office," he said.

The tutoring sessions start with a phone call. Buffington rings a computer inside Megan Grivois' first grade classroom at Celestino Mauricio Soto Jr. Elementary School. One of her student ambassadors answers and connects Buffington with the pupil he's tutoring, which is Anthony Vargas this year.

Over the course of 30 minutes the pair talk on the phone while interacting through the TutorMate program.

"We see the same computer screen so I turn the pages on our book and he reads," Buffington said.

For the past year Jim has been helping Anthony strengthen his reading skills. 

"I used to read little words, but now he helps me read big words," said Anthony.

Students at several Dallas ISD elementary schools are using TutorMate. Their tutors include volunteers who work for large firms like Bank of America.

Anthony's teacher said the sessions are paying huge dividends in the classroom.

"Anthony came in at a very basic reading level which is pretty common," said Megan Grivois. "He's on target with where he should be at the end of the school year, so starting from below level and growing to on level is really a great accomplishment."

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