To the Editor:
In a recent Commentary (“Federal Tutoring Program Is Deeply Flawed,” December 14, 2011.), Joan Jacobson accuses a program that provides tutoring to low-income children trapped in low-performing schools of being ineffective and lacking proper oversight.
Much as we need to hold schools to high standards, we also need to hold tutoring providers to high standards. Ironically, Baltimore, which is Ms. Jacobson’s home, has some of the highest standards for providers in the country, and should serve as a model for the country. It is not surprising that Ms. Jacobson might come to questionable conclusions—the data she uses for Los Angeles, for instance, are almost 6 years old.
Still, the program would benefit from stricter oversight. Indeed, bills introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and in the House by a bipartisan coalition of congressmen would provide just that.
Where the Commentary falters even more fundamentally is when it argues that the tutoring program is ineffective. Far from it. Reports from reputable organizations, from the U.S. Department of Education to the RAND Corp. to the Chicago public school system, have all found that the tutoring program leads to significant gains in math and reading achievement. Indeed, a study released just last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that high-dosage tutoring is among the most effective methods we have for improving student achievement.
The tutoring program finally provides an effective educational tool to low-income, largely minority youths trapped in failing schools. The program gives children academic help while adults try—yet again—to fix our schools. Research shows that even the most aggressive school turnarounds take five years to show results, and we cannot afford to lose yet another generation of students to low-performing schools. Tutoring is helping to save that generation.
Tutor Our Children Coalition
The writer served as the U.S. assistant secretary of education for civil rights from 2005 to 2008.
A version of this article appeared in the January 18, 2012 edition of Education Week as Jacobson Essay Misses The Mark on Tutoring