Education Letter to the Editor

SES Aims to Help Pupils, Not Turn Around Schools

November 15, 2011 1 min read

To the Editor:

Regarding Steven Ross’ post about supplemental education services, or SES, in the Sputnik blog (“Supplemental Educational Services: Noble Ideas + Unreasonable Expectations = Disappointing Results,” edweek.org, Oct. 19, 2011): While Mr. Ross is a talented researcher, he should stick to analyzing data, not policy.

He demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the No Child Left Behind Act when he states that SES was designed to move schools out of improvement status. The primary goal of SES from its very inception was to give low-income students in struggling schools the extra academic assistance they need, while the school does the hard work of systemic improvement.

SES is embedded in a much larger school improvement framework and is not intended to be the sole remedy for struggling schools. Moreover, SES is the one direct service in NCLB that is of immediate benefit to students. As Mr. Ross rightly points out, the research clearly shows that tutoring and small group instruction are powerful tools to help students improve. However, the guest blogger misapplies his data to form an incredibly misguided policy conclusion.

If Mr. Ross were to extrapolate the gains he found in short-term SES programs across an entire school year, the impact on student progress would be tremendously significant. By this logic, the federal government’s $800 million investment in SES is truly one of its most productive programs. Applying the blog’s flawed approach to other federal programs would lead to the conclusion that many federal programs are worthless.

Where is the concern for the billions in federal education spending that hasn’t been measured or produced results? Too many children in this country have no access to the supplemental educational help they need. Let’s not allow flawed analysis to lead to more low-income and minority children being denied the extra academic assistance their more affluent and less diverse peers can afford on their own.

Doug Mesecar

Vice President for Contract Services

Sylvan Learning

Baltimore, Md.

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A version of this article appeared in the November 16, 2011 edition of Education Week as SES Aims to Help Pupils, Not Turn Around Schools