By Kimberly Melton, originally published 2/25/2010 in The Oregonian
An audit of a federally mandated Portland Public Schools tutoring program for low-income students in struggling schools found the average achievement gains for students receiving the tutoring were slightly larger than the gains of students who didn’t participate in the tutoring. The tutoring program served about 435 students last school year.
The audit found the district was complying with federal requirements but recommended that Portland provide better access to information on the tutoring services to increase participation. It also recommended that the district review its methods for identifying eligible students and encourage the tutoring providers to increase the number of hours of instruction, create specific achievement goals for each student and use small-group or one-on-one sessions. The audit also suggested Portland use software to better track student enrollment, attendance, participation and progress.
When students spent 20 hours or more in tutoring, they scored significantly higher than their peers on the following year’s achievement tests. In 2009, for example, 60 percent of students receiving tutoring met benchmarks compared to 24 percent of eligible students who did not participate in tutoring. The Portland School Board’s auditor, Dick Tracy, came up with those numbers using state test results, not measures provided by the tutoring organizations, which he said were inadequate.
The genesis of the tutoring program is the federal No Child Left Behind law. If a school that receives federal money to assist disadvantaged students fails to meet the law’s benchmarks, it faces federal sanctions. After missing the mark one year, the school must offer transfers. If the school doesn’t meet the achievement targets two years in a row, the school must also offer students supplementary education services, including tutoring and other types of academic enrichment.
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