Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More Children Left Behind

The Washington Post runs a comment today that argues children not getting the tutoring they have a right to under NCLB. Here's the key point:

These school administrators claim that of the 1.4 million children eligible for such tutoring during the past school year, only 233,000 (17 percent) had parents and guardians who found this offer worthy of acceptance. All the rest apparently declined free tutoring for their children.

That is simply preposterous.

My experience from working with several states is that a combination of bitterness and bureaucratic sclerosis has conspired to make working with a district to effectively tutor their students nearly impossible. The regulations they thrust upon the tutoring companies are onerous. The districts, partly because they must, partly because they can, require tutoring companies to log so many details that it is nearly impossible to tutor students profitably, given the cost of compiling the required data. The districts are also quite horrible at getting tutors basic information that is needed to meet these requirements, like class lists. It would be similar to the IRS demanding tax returns but not printing up any forms. One district required everybody to record all of their SES information online, but their SES website, which cost them millions of dollars to develop, was down half the time.

The only way to break even at tutoring is to have 80% attendance, which actually can happen with younger kids when the on-site school liaison does his or her job.

The schools themselves are often uncooperative, even disruptive. They fail to notify parents of the opportunity to enroll students in tutoring classes, they notify parents only on behalf of companies who have a special relationship with a principal and ignore every other company, they fail to administer the programs within the guidelines set by their own district, and they fail to complete the tasks needed to ensure the students are tested.

It's really something of a joke, and Hickok is, in my experience, right to assign blame to schools and districts.

The commentary is written by Eugene Hickok of Dutko Worldwide and is no favorite of the Schools Matter blog, a status I suggest lends great credibility to his arguments.

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