Education Dept. Issues Guidance on Tutoring
The U.S. Department of Education on June 13 urged states to make sure that private companies and groups offering tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act are not engaging in unfair business practices.
In new, nonregulatory guidance about how states and districts should implement the “supplemental educational services” portion of the federal law, the Education Department says states are obligated to ensure that tutoring providers don’t advertise falsely about their programs, or offer kickbacks to people who encourage parents to choose their services. The 55-page document suggests that states also develop policies governing the circumstances under which private providers can use incentives to boost enrollment, maintain attendance, or reward student achievement.
The guidance was issued after many requests by states, districts, and tutoring providers for clarification on their roles and duties under the law. Schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, on student achievement for three consecutive years must offer free tutoring to low-income children using part of their districts’ federal Title I money. Some districts and states have been scolded informally by Education Department officials for stepping beyond, or not fully embracing, their responsibilities in offering tutoring.
The new document—the first written update of guidance on supplemental services since August 2003—outlines what states, districts, and providers should and shouldn’t do to ensure tutoring is handled well. Much of the guidance has already been made public, piece by piece, in the department’s responses to states or districts in specific situations.
For instance, the guidance clarifies that districts that have been serving as tutoring providers, and are then deemed to themselves be in need of improvement, may not finish out the school year as providers, but must cease the services as soon as possible. Chicago has clashed with federal officials over that issue. ("Chicago Resisting Federal Directive on NCLB Tutoring," Jan. 5, 2005.)
Federal officials advise states to tell districts about their AYP status before the start of the school year to avoid having them begin as tutors and risk having to stop midyear. State should consider using preliminary AYP data if necessary to make that deadline is met, the guidance says.
The guidance offers other cautions for districts. Districts can’t refuse to let a state-approved provider serve their students, nor can they evaluate a provider’s effectiveness. Only the state may judge program design and evaluate providers, the guidance states.