July 20, 2014

Free tutoring strains Nebraska school district budgets

By Joe Dejka and Erin Duffy, World-Herald staff writers, originally published 6/22/14

Alavion Allen, left, and Brooklyn Thomas are tutored by Benson West Elementary School kindergarten teacher Merry T. Johnson. High-poverty schools that miss proficiency targets must offer the tutoring. REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD

When the dismissal bell rings at Benson West Elementary School, most kids scatter for home. But one recent spring day, more than 50 students stuck around for mandatory tutoring. Not mandatory for the kids, mind you. Mandatory for the school.

The federal No Child Left Behind law says that high-poverty schools must offer free tutoring when they repeatedly fail to hit annual proficiency targets. So, as first-grade teacher Megan Young led three students reading aloud the story of “Chicken Little,” she was helping Omaha Public Schools comply with the controversial 2002 law. The law has forced dozens of Nebraska schools to spend millions of their federal Title I dollars on tutoring. Annual cost: up to $1,500 per student.

Nebraska schools spent $2 million tutoring kids in 2012-13; $1.8 million of that was in OPS. Though the mandate is hitting OPS hardest — district officials expect that 33 schools will offer tutoring next school year — the impact is not limited to the big urban district.

To read more, click here.

Filed under: Government,NCLB

May 8, 2014

Washington State Loses NCLB Waiver – Will SES Tutoring Return?

Originally published in The Tutor Report on 5/7/14

In an historic letter dated April 24, 2014 from The Secretary of Education to Randy Dorn, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Washington, Arne Duncan advises that Washington’s flexibility from the requirements of NCLB will end with the 2013-2014 school year.

In the following excerpt from the letter Mr Duncan clearly states that Washington is again to set aside Title I funds for tutoring. This means that, among other actions that the State and LEAs will have to resume, LEAs in Washington must once again set aside 20 percent of their Title I funds for public school choice and supplemental educational services rather than having the flexibility to use those funds for other activities to improve student achievement in low-achieving schools. Should Washington obtain the requisite authority to resolve its condition, I would be pleased to reconsider Washington’s request to implement ESEA flexibility at any time.

For Washington to regain flexibility status their legislature, not due to reconvene until January 2015, would need to introduce using state tests to measure student growth instead or alongside local tests. To date this has not been possible. Washington now has an uphill struggle to reintroduce programs in time for the new school year that should include SES tutoring provider applications and authorizations. At this time their website cites the following:

To read more click here.

Filed under: Government,NCLB

December 31, 2013

After Misuse, a Push to Continue Tutoring Mandate in Texas

by Morgan Smith, The Texas Tribune, originally published Oct. 20, 2013

A decade after it became law as a part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, a tutoring program heralded as an academic safety net for children from low-income families in struggling schools has earned few champions — and lost many supporters. “It was an unmitigated disaster,” said Michael Petrilli, a former Bush administration official who helped develop and promote the initiative during his four years in the federal Education Department. “It was a poorly thought-through policy, and I think it has run its course and should be allowed to die.”

Under the No Child Left Behind tutoring program, underperforming schools had to set aside a portion of the federal financing they received for economically disadvantaged students to get outside tutoring. In Texas, with minimal quality control at the state level, it resulted in millions of dollars in public money going to companies that at best showed little evidence of their services’ academic benefit, and at worst committed outright fraud. The program has been suspended in Texas, as the state secured a waiver from the federal law’s requirements last month. Education officials have said that, for now, there are no plans to continue the program at the state level.

But as No Child Left Behind awaits Congressional reauthorization, the tutoring industry is energetically pushing federal policy makers to preserve public funding for tutoring, either in the updated law or other legislation — lobbying efforts expected to be duplicated at the state level in Texas, where over the years tutoring companies have cultivated powerful political ties.

“I have no doubt that the next legislative session, they will lobby for this way of spending dollars to be decided in Austin instead of the neighborhood school level, and I think that would be a real disservice,” said state Rep. Mike Villarreal, a San Antonio Democrat who passed legislation during the 2013 session tightening regulations on the federal tutoring program.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Government,NCLB

September 20, 2013

Cuts in tutor funding spark creative solutions

Summary: As a result of the “Race to the Top Waiver” granted to Florida schools and the effects of the sequester, the Marion County School District has chosen to replace SES tutoring providers with a variety of solutions. Schools are hosting intervention paraprofessionals and math coaches as well and are hopeful that grants will support after-hours tutoring and enrichment.

By Joe Callahan, Staff writer, Ocala StarBanner, originally published 8/29/13

Last year at elementary schools countywide, the Marion County School District spent $1 million in federal funds to tutor 1,000 low-income students. This year, though the need is still great, there is not enough money to pay for the same tutoring program because of complicated federal funding issues.

This development has prompted the district to take some creative approaches to plug the financial hole and help these struggling students. District officials are adding intervention paraprofessionals and math coaches at the schools that need help the most, and also installing new computer software to assist students. At some schools, like Fessenden Elementary, officials vow to stretch the federal money they get to help low-income children.

This is all necessary because of two separate funding issues: Florida opting out of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act and the federal government’s sequester cuts. Last year, Florida education officials signed a “Race to the Top” waiver that, among other things, cut Title I tutoring dollars — known as Supplemental Educational Services (SES) funds — to districts. Because that tutoring money had been cut, Florida lawmakers forced school districts to set aside 15 percent of remaining federal Title I dollars to use for SES tutoring in 2012-13.

This spring, lawmakers did not require districts to set aside those Title I dollars for 2013-14. In fact, interim Commissioner Pam Stewart said districts do not have to use any of their shrinking Title I dollars for the SES tutoring.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Funding,NCLB

August 14, 2013

School district to forgo private companies, pay teachers to tutor struggling students

Summary: Alachua County Public Schools will stop using private tutoring companies as part of a federal initiative to improve learning at low-performing schools, and instead will pay teachers to provide after-school tutoring. This follows an amendment to NCLB by the Florida Board of Education to allow school districts to discontinue the use of agreements with private SES-approved tutoring programs. The Title 1 District Supervisor reviews how in the past SES funding was allocated by providers to students, student enrollment was managed, and the impact of evening tutoring.

By Erin Jester, Staff writer, Gainseville.com, originally published 6/19/13

Alachua County Public Schools will stop using private tutoring companies as part of a federal initiative to improve learning at low-performing schools, and instead will pay teachers to provide after-school tutoring.

The Florida Board of Education on Tuesday approved a measure that would give school districts more flexibility with Supplementary Educational Services, a tutoring initiative established under the No Child Left Behind Act. With Tuesday’s amendment, school districts will have more freedom to negotiate with SES-approved private tutoring companies, or to end partnerships with the private companies and use the funding for other services that are allowed under Title I. Title I funding is provided to low-income schools that need the most academic support.

Everett Caudle, director of project development for Alachua County Public Schools, said the district is opting to stop using outside providers. “We could do things like provide tutoring here, in house, so to speak,” Caudle said.

For the 2012-2013 school year, Alachua County received $612,079 in Title I funding specifically for SES tutoring. With that money, Caudle said the district instead could pay teachers to give after-school tutoring, buy supplemental curriculum programs, provide pullout programs for struggling students, hire additional teaching staff or extend the school year to allow for more summer programs.

While the full plan hasn’t been finalized, “we’re not going to do SES, and we’re not going to do private providers,” said Pam Diaz, supervisor II for Title I programs in the district.

To read more click here.

Filed under: NCLB

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