by Mary Ellen Klas in the Miami Herald Blog on 5/17/12
U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan came down hard on the Florida Legislature for using federal No Child Left Behind funds to steer money to questionable tutoring programs throughout the state. Florida lawmakers passed a law that requires school districts to spend 15 percent of their Title I funds — intended for low income students — on tutoring programs for students without determining whether the programs work.
Speaking to the Florida Council of 100, a business advocacy group, at the organization’s quarterly meeting in Washington, D.C., Duncan said this practice has spawned a cottage industry of tutoring companies despite research that shows mandated tutoring has no impact on student performance. “There has never been accountability for results,” Duncan said. “Districts don’t know if individual companies are actually having an impact on student achievement.” Under the law, the districts must send money to one of a handful of state-approved tutoring programs. “I find it ironic that Washington is offering flexibility but Tallahassee is taking it away,” Duncan said.
Florida Education Commission Gerard Robinson, who is under fire for the botched scoring of of FCAT writing scores, responded quickly in defense of the legislature. “Florida sought a flexibility waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act last year precisely because we wanted to have the flexibility to make decisions for our students and our schools that are right for Florida,” he said in a statement. “Suggesting that our state and our legislators were not acting in the best interest of Florida’s children reinforces how important it is that our state be allowed to chart a course that is right for Florida.”
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