Suspending mandated tutoring program under NCLB a good idea

Posted Monday, Oct. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help low-income students improve academically, but after 10 years the program is clearly troubled.

The No Child Left Behind Act, in an attempt to give poor youngsters in low-performing schools the same opportunity as their wealthier counterparts, authorized “supplemental educational services,” or free tutoring for those kids. The idea was that parents could choose a state-approved tutoring provider and the school district would pay for the instruction with part of its federal funds.

A booming tutoring industry flourished under the law, and in the last six years, Texas spent $180 million on tutoring, primarily from private providers, according to an investigative report by The Texas Tribune.

Almost from the beginning there were complaints about the quality of instruction, recruiting methods of the providers, billing practices and the lack of oversight.

In addition, some school districts have alleged outright fraud by some of the companies with whom they were doing business.

For example, the Dallas school district found that it had paid more than $650,000 for services that had not been rendered, The Texas Tribune reported.

Last week the Education Department granted Texas a waiver under NCLB after it was determined that 95 percent of the state’s school districts would not have met this year’s federally set standards. In anticipation of that waiver approval, Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced in August that the supplemental education services would not be required this school year.

While that’s a good thing, there is still a place for quality tutoring for kids who need the extra help. But, as Williams suggested, the districts and the schools — those who best know the needs of the students — should have authority over the programs.

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