InstantTutor: Online Tutoring for Foster Youth

by Educational Tutorial Services

$15 pledged of $100,000 tipping point goal
Tipping Point: $100,000
Ultimate Goal: $170,000
$15 pledged of $100,000 tipping point goal
0 days to go
This Campaign has ended

Campaign Overview

InstantTutor is an innovative online tutoring program that bridges learning gaps experienced by youth in foster care.

Why InstantTutor Matters

The sad reality is that foster youth are being left behind in this country as well as other communities around the world. In the U.S., approximately 700,000 children are in the foster care system at some point during every twelve month period. On any given day, the estimated number of youth in care is around 400,000.  World-wide, there are at least 2 million children in foster care officially. Unofficially, experts believe the number of children in foster care may be as high as 5 million.

Nearly 30,000 youth age-out of the U.S. foster care system without the skills needed to be self-sufficient. Only about 50% of youth in foster care will be reunified with their families. At least 60% of youth in care will be there longer than 12 months.

Foster youth are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school. Youth in care often experience multiple changes in placement which disrupt their education. Approximately 33% of foster youth move at least five times during their stay in foster care. It does not take long for them to lag behind their peers.

Young female foster care student is frustrated because she does not understand her homework.

Our education system is not designed in a way that allows teachers to provide special attention to youth who need extra care. As a result, the following are typical outcomes for youth who age out of the foster care system:      

-- 22% experience homelessness soon after age 18 

-- 33% live at or below poverty for years following care

-- 75% of females will become pregnant at least once by 24

-- 25% are incarcerated within 2 years of leaving foster care

-- 25% are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Less than 2% of foster youth will earn a college degree compared to 24% of the general population. The numbers speak for themselves - we are failing foster youth in this country and around the world. Although Educational Tutorial Services has been helping these students for years, we have only touched a fraction of youth in care. There is more that we can and plan to do, with InstantTutor being an integral part of our strategy.

Click here to learn more about Educational Tutorial Services. Click on the following graphic to see Lisa Russell (CEO of Educational Tutorial Services) on Lifetime's Balancing Act:

Lisa Russell, CEO of Educational Tutorial Services, being interviewed on Lifetime's Balancing Act.

What Makes Us Different

Of course, we are not the first online tutoring program. We also are not the first one to suggest we are unique. We are, however, the first that specifically targets foster youth.

Our longevity is proof of our commitment to our social mission. We are not a start-up that may or may not succeed. We will succeed! We have proven our value to the foster care community. We understand what it takes to bridge learning gaps experienced by youth in care. We have relationships with foster care agencies across the country as well as workforce investment boards that serve foster youth who have dropped out of school or aged out of the system. Learn more about our foster care tutoring program here.

Our instructors are trained and dedicated. Yes, we only hire experienced teachers to help our students. They all have college degrees, some with a master's or doctorate degree. Many have special education credentials. More importantly, each of our instructors receives additional training to work with our students. Our tutors know how to engage foster youth and provide the unique encouragement each child needs to succeed academically. Tutors are available for every learning style and subject matter ranging from Algebra to SAT prep.

Our tutoring program is intuitive and easy-to-use. We have partnered with an established e-learning company to build our platform which is completed. Tutors and students can communicate in real-time using a variety of tools from whiteboards to audio and video messaging. The student is able to upload homework assignments so the tutor can help the student instantly. You can see more about how InstantTutor works here (link to Learning Platform video on ETS YouTube Channel).

Our Interactive Learning Platform

Screen shot of InstantTutor

Click the graphic for a brief deomonstration of InstantTutor. There are too many features of InstantTutor to list, but the highlights of our online tutoring program follow:

Real-time tutoring is the backbone of InstantTutor so students can get the help they need when they need it. 

Desktop sharing allows for easy transfer of lessons, homework assignments, and other communications.

Library includes K-12 worksheets for students to download at no cost at the conclusion of their tutoring session.

Ask a Question is available so that a student can ask a quick question rather than sign up for an entire session.

Multiple Language API support is integrated so the classroom is opened in the language the student selects.

508 compliance is built-in so that students with visual impairments can use InstantTutor. JAWS and other screen readers are supported in our virtual classroom environment.

System check is available with the touch of a button so students can determine in advance if they have the software they need to access InstantTutor. 

Live webinars used to train tutors, provide information to caregivers and students about online tutoring, and market the program. Our CEO will use live webinars to share important updates with social workers and case workers about InstantTutor.

Hopefully this gives you a sense of the robustness of our learning platform. Our intent is to make it as easy as possible for students to get help and for tutors to provide that help in a timely fashion. 

What We Plan to Accomplish

We believe every child has a fundamental right to an education. Youth in care are more likely to experience disruptions in their education than any other group of youth. The primary goal of our StartSomeGood campaign is to:

(1)    Give all foster youth access to qualified tutors who can help them bridge learning gaps faster.

(2)    Make sure foster youth around the world are made aware of this educational opportunity.

(3)    Provide program support to tutors and students to maintain the overall integrity of InstantTutor.

We have already invested the funds needed to build the interactive learning platform. It will be connected to our existing website to make it easier for our current students and partners to access our online services. We currently have 50 tutors ready to help a student at a moment's notice. Our blog is a wealth of information for students and caregivers who want to learn valuable study tips and test prep recommendations.

We are proud of our accomplishments to date, but we still need your help!

With your donations, we will be able to:

(1)    Purchase additional licenses for instructors that will allow us to hire a total of 2,500 tutors.

(2)    Initiate a strategic online marketing campaign to get the word out about InstantTutor.

(3)    Hire support staff to handle technical issues, answer student and caregiver questions, and train tutors on the platform.

Young male foster care student using InstantTutor on his computer.

Every contribution is important if we want to make an authentic impact on the lives of foster youth. We will use all funds raised to expand services and address educational needs of youth in care in order to help them succeed academically.

What You Get From Donating to Educational Tutorial Services

In addition to our heartfelt thanks, you will get an extra bonus from us. We have created a list of fun perks for our donors. Please take a minute to review these to see where you might be able to assist us in meeting our ambitious goal. Know that whatever donation level you choose, you will be doing more than supporting us as we launch InstantTutor - you will be making a true social impact on foster youth around the world and the communities in which they live.

You can still help out even if you cannot afford to make a donation. We can use your help getting the word out about our campaign. You can use the StartSomeGood share tools or share our campaign using Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media you use on a regular basis. Even good old fashioned email is a great way to help spread the word about our initiative. Whatever your method, be sure to include the link you see below our video so folks can find us. Thanks!

What Our Students/Caregivers Say About Us

"My foster son has achieved many academic awards and works very diligently to achieve higher recognition from his peers, teachers and school district. He states that he is taking full advantage of the services Educational Tutorial Services offers. He hopes to continue doing so in the future."  -- David, foster parent

"Educational Tutorial Services has provided services for my child for over one year. I have appreciated the patience and flexibility that we have received. Over the many months, I have seen my son get into a positive pattern regarding school and homework. His tutor was able to connect with my son on his level and recognize when he needed to give him a break." -- Crystal, foster parent

"Last year I had about three students in my household. Educational Tutorial Services assigned a tutor to my kids, and he did a good job. One of my kids wants to attend UCLA in the future so the tutor helped her. At first, my foster daughter had trouble with math but she stayed patient and kept doing homework assignments and worksheets which helped improve her learning skills in the classroom.  This hard work reflected in her test scores and she became surprised and kept doing the right things in order to keep her high test scores." -- Rosie, foster parent

"My foster children's Educational Tutorial Services tutor is the best tutor they have been with. She is knowledgeable and provides tools and shortcuts in understanding math problems. Over the past school year, both children have been able to complete projects and assignments which they weren't able to do before. Their grades have improved significantly as well in math, reading and science." -- JoAnn, foster parent

We thank you in advance for your interest and support!

Tipping Point Goal: $100,000

Total Funding Goal: $170,000

How Donations Will Be Used

We have set a goal of $170,000 for this campaign and expect to use the funds as follows:

$50,000 is allocated for our outreach initiative and includes funds for Google AdWords and Facebook campaigns as well as ongoing marketing efforts through other online and traditional channels. 

$40,000 has been set aside to pay for technical and program support. We need staff that will provide customer support to students, caregivers, and tutors if they have questions about the learning platform. 

$50,000 is needed for program support. The increase in tutors will require additional administrative support to complete tutor background checks, process tutor paychecks, and such. Additionally, support staff including an educational coordinator who can oversee the academic outtcomes of up to 400 students annually.

$30,000 is designated for scholarships to help foster youth who need extra tutoring to close learning gaps. Intensive one-on-one tutoring is often required in between online sessions if students have been held back several grades and need to catch up with their peers. These funds will ensure the neediest get the help they need to meet academic goals.

Any funds raised beyond our goal will be applied to the last category.

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