Paid for Grades is a program that provides necessary resources to students, teachers and administrators in an effort to improve the overall learning experience. Underachieving students in high school are provided with supplemental mentoring sessions aimed at increasing literacy. Students also partake in online life skills workshops to better prepare these young adults for the next phase of their life.
Paid for Grades is currently funded by local businesses to support public education.
Paid for Grades is supported by the Pinellas Education Foundation, a coalition of business and community leaders who collaborate with community partners to nurture student success in the classroom and to better prepare them for the world beyond.
At this time, Paid for Grades’ only affiliation is with the Pinellas Education Foundation. The program is not influenced or funded by any local, religious or government agency or group.
Schools are selected based on FCAT reading scores provided publicly through the Florida Department of Education. Schools are given priority based on necessity, as determined by the disparity between student performance and state standards.
Students must take an initial reading assessment administered by their school and score lower than grade level in both vocabulary and comprehension. Paid for Grades would like the lowest performing students to enter the program, as they have the most to gain from personalized mentoring.
Paid for Grades benefits students, mentors and schools in several different ways.
• Demonstrate improvement in attitude and performance
• Celebrate their achievement
• Possess greater confidence and renewed belief in their own ability to succeed
• Demonstrate higher standardized test scores
• See first-hand the benefits and rewards of their own hard work
• Build stronger bonds with their students
• Be reminded of how much they can make a difference in students’ lives
• Gain incentives for expressing their passion and ability
• Benefit from a stronger bond between administrators, teachers and students
• Gain additional funds to purchase new technology and improve students’ overall learning experience
To receive the incentive, the student must meet the following requirements:
• Reading level: Students must improve their vocabulary and comprehension by a minimum of one grade level.
• Grades: Paid for Grades will compare students’ cumulative, unweighted GPA at the end of the first quarter of the school year with their cumulative, unweighted GPA at the end of the third quarter of the school year to evaluate improvement.
• Attendance: We believe that attendance is the key to students’ success. Therefore, Paid for Grades participants are allowed no more than seven (7) unexcused absences from school during their enrollment in the Paid for Grades program.
• Skills Workshop: All participants are required to complete a series of online life skills workshops to prepare them for challenges they may face after graduation.
Paid for Grades recommends that schools select their lowest performing readers. The greatest reading gain will come from students who are reading three or more years below their current grade level.
Paid for Grades works with school administrators to tailor the program in a manner that will yield the highest success rate for students. Schools administer testing during the initial weeks of the new school semester. Once test scores are reviewed and the students who would most benefit from the program are identified, administrators and mentors are encouraged to begin meeting with students for mentoring sessions. Students and their parent(s) / guardian(s) will need to fill out a participation form prior to beginning the program. Paid for Grades recommends a maximum ratio of one mentor to every six students to ensure the best results for students.
The program runs from the end of the first quarter of the school year through the final weeks of classes.
The administrator’s role is to:
• Select students who need additional help with reading and have the right attitude to complete the program. Paid for Grades recommends that administrators identify students who are reading three or more years below their current grade level, as students who test too high will not qualify for the program.
• Select mentors who are passionate and willing to assist students consistently throughout the program.
• Provide meeting space for mentors and students to work.
• Assist mentors in scheduling time to meet with students.
• Encourage students to:
o Meet with mentors during scheduled meeting times
o Complete the online life skills workshops
o Improve their grades while enrolled in the program
o Maintain attendance while enrolled in the program
• Coordinate with Paid for Grades administrators by providing mentor and student information.
• Coordinate with Paid for Grades administrators by providing transcript information for participating students upon completion of the program.
• Maintain lines of communication throughout the duration of the program.
• Coordinate with Paid for Grades administrators to host awards ceremony.
The number of students admitted into the program will be based on school dedication to the program, the number of students in need of assistance and the funds available each year.
Paid for Grades supports mentors whose main objective is to make a difference in the lives of students. It is recommended that administrators select mentors based on their desire, commitment and skill in reading education. Mentors are most successful when they possess the passion for and dedication to helping students reach their full potential.
School administrators will be responsible for determining the number of students assigned to each mentor. Paid for Grades encourages administrators to speak with each mentor and determine their comfort level before assigning a specific number of students. As a rule of thumb, Paid for Grades recommends no more than a 6:1 ratio to ensure that students receive the instruction they need to be successful.
Any of the below methods will work, as long as the student(s) and mentor possess the will to succeed:
• Grouping according to reading level (Paid for Grades recommends this grouping)
• Grouping according to the students’ relationship with the teacher / mentor
• Grouping according to students’ comfort level within the group
Paid for Grades administrators are available to assist to ensure successful outcomes for students, mentors and schools. Areas of support include:
• Providing guidance to the school during the setup process
• Answering questions posed by schools, mentors, teachers, students or parents / guardians
• Administering on-site orientation to students and mentors when needed
• Supplying performance updates to administration, mentors and students
• Coordinating with administration for awards ceremony and other topics
Students, mentors and administration will receive disbursements during the awards ceremony.
Paid for Grades does not require schools to give anything back to our program. Schools that choose to thank Paid for Grades can do so in the following ways:
• Provide positive testimonials (written and verbal) to showcase on the Paid for Grades website, www.paidforgrades.org
• Submit photos of students and mentors working together to showcase on the Paid for Grades website
• Support press / media outreach efforts to promote the program within the community
• Produce a video of thanks or one that would promote or explain the program benefits to other students / schools
• Include a “message of thanks” to Paid for Grades in the school website, school newspaper, morning announcements, street marquee or banner showcased on football field, lunchroom or gym
Level-II clearance is required to become a mentor with the Paid for Grades program. Paid for Grades leaves the credentials for mentors up to the school’s administration. Paid for Grades recommends that a mentor have experience in teaching remedial reading to young adults. However, it is at the discretion of administration to provide specific criteria for this role.
Although it is recommended that a mentor have some experience with teaching reading, it is not required for a mentor to be an English or reading teacher.
Mentors are selected by the school’s administration based on their attitude and credentials.
Mentors report to the school administrator working with Paid for Grades. The Paid for Grades school representative may be a principal, assistant principal, guidance counselor or lead mentor.
School administration will determine how many students each mentor will teach. Paid for Grades encourages school administration to speak with each mentor to determine their comfort level before assigning a specific number of students. Paid for Grades recommends no more than a 6:1 ratio to ensure that students receive the instruction they need to be successful.
School administrators can provide guidance on the length and frequency of the mentoring session. Paid for Grades recommends that a student should meet with their mentor multiple times each week. Initially, mentors may see a need to have longer, more frequent sessions of intensive intervention and targeted support. Over time, they may switch to shorter sessions as the student progresses.
Yes, mentors can work with students in small group sessions. Paid for Grades recommends one-on-one sessions in conjunction with group sessions.
Paid for Grades will measure both vocabulary and reading comprehension for improvement and recommends that mentors take a holistic reading approach when mentoring students, with a focus on both comprehension and vocabulary.
At this time, Paid for Grades does not provide curriculum or lessons for mentoring. Paid for Grades would like to celebrate creative teaching methodology and encourages mentors to utilize their knowledge and experience to provide beneficial coursework to their students.
Paid for Grades uses testing already in place within Pinellas County public schools. Students are tested at the beginning of the school year, and again at the end of the school year. The results of these examinations are compared to assess the progress students participating in the Paid for Grades program have made over the course of their enrollment.
Mentors are required to:
• Coordinate with the lead mentor or administrator
• Develop a plan to improve the students’ reading level
• Work individually and in small groups with assigned students until reading level has improved
• Give positive encouragement to students
• Encourage students to complete the program by improving their reading level, completing the online life skills workshops, and improving their grades
• Encourage students to attend school every day
• Paid for Grades encourages mentors to reach out to their student’s parent(s) / guardian(s), as a relationship with the student’s parent(s) or guardian(s) can support mentors’ efforts and greatly impact student outcomes
• Celebrate students’ achievements during the awards ceremony
In order for a student, mentor and the school to receive the awards, the student must complete the following:
• Improvement of reading level. Students must improve their vocabulary and comprehension by a minimum of one grade level.
• Online life skills workshops.
• Improvement of grades. Paid for Grades will compare students’ cumulative GPA during the time they were in the program with either the previous nine weeks or the previous semester. The student must show an improvement.
• Attendance requirements. We believe that attendance is the key to students’ success. Therefore, Paid for Grades participants are allowed no more than eight absences from school during their enrollment in the Paid for Grades program.
Mentors will be paid $400 for each student who successfully completes the program.
Students, mentors and administration will receive disbursements during the awards ceremony.
Mentors will receive a check.
The mentor only receives an award if the student completes all of the requirements of the program.
Students who need help with reading are selected by school administrators.
Teachers, parents and guardians can recommend students for program consideration, but administration will make the final selection.
In order for a student to receive the award, that student must complete the following:
• Improve reading level
• Complete the online workshops
• Improve grades
• Do not exceed eight absences from school over the course of the program
Discuss your situation with your mentor or administration to see if they will allow you to continue during the next Paid for Grades session.
Unfortunately, you must complete all requirements in order to receive the $500 award.
You will receive the $500 during the student award ceremony at the end of your program. Check with your mentor or administration for the date and time of the awards ceremony.
Students will receive a check for $500.
Contact the lead mentor or your school administrator if you have any issues with your mentor.
Contact your mentor if you are having trouble with the online workshops.