The Department of Education should reconsider its near-prohibition on letting academically struggling school districts serve as tutors under the No Child Left Behind Act, the office of the department’s inspector general has suggested.
In a report released Nov. 28, the office recommends that the department devise a strategy for evaluating a district’s tutoring program, rather than making a “blanket determination” that the district cannot provide such supplemental educational services because it has been deemed “in need of improvement” under the NCLB law.
The federal law requires districts to offer free tutoring to children whose schools have failed to make sufficient academic progress for three years in a row.
Just like private tutoring providers, school districts may seek approval from their states to deliver that tutoring. But federal regulations currently forbid districts that carry the “needs improvement” label from using their Title I money to offer tutoring under the school improvement law. As part of an Education Department pilot program, exceptions have been granted to a few districts. (“Department Expands NCLB Tutoring Pilot Programs,” Aug. 9, 2006.)
The inspector general’s report suggests that the department consider three alternative approaches to deciding which children are eligible for free tutoring.
One alternative would limit eligibility only to low-achieving students in low-income families to better focus the services on those who need them most. Another would make the service available to all children in low-achieving Title I schools, as is done under the provision of the No Child Left Behind law that lets parents transfer their children from poorly performing schools. The third would expand eligibility to include lower-achieving children from higher income brackets as well.
The report says the three alternatives “merit consideration” as Congress approaches reauthorization of the federal law next year.
A version of this article appeared in the December 06, 2006 edition of Education Week