Special Education

California Seeks Waiver on Use of Title I Tutoring Aid

By Alyson Klein — June 02, 2015 5 min read

California is one of eight states still subject to the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act. But school districts there could get relief from one of the most onerous pieces of the law, if the U.S. Department of Education gives a green light to the state’s latest ask: allowing districts to use money that they now spend on tutoring services to extend learning time.

The move would give California districts greater control over hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Title I money that now is directed to private tutors for students in schools that don’t meet the NCLB law’s achievement targets.

The waiver would start in the fall and be in place for four years, beyond the end of the Obama administration. Districts would have the option of continuing to spend the money—roughly a fifth of Title I funds for disadvantaged students—on tutoring services or using the aid to extend learning time.

There’s a lot of cash at stake. During the 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14 school years, California school districts spent about $507.5 million on tutoring services, said Michael W. Kirst, the president of the state board of education.

“This is not just, ‘Take the money and run,’ ” said Mr. Kirst. “It’s on a specific intervention.”

Many district officials, he said, think that extending learning time would benefit their students more than tutoring services do.

The Education Department is still reviewing California’s request, said Raymonde Charles, a spokeswoman.

A Second Year of Exceptions

The outcome is not a foregone conclusion.

On the one hand, California has already received permission to hit the pause button on its school rating system—something the Education Department offered to all states transitioning to new assessments. (Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, and Washington were also granted such a pause just last month.)

This marks the second year in a row that the state has requested a pass on its accountability system. The state, like many others, is putting in place new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Last year, the state was allowed to try out those new measures by doing field testing with all its students.

Field tests aren’t meant to be used for accountability purposes. That means the state didn’t have to publicly report the test results—a big deviation from the NCLB law.

But California did not get its way on requests dealing with accountability and assessments for students in special education and English-language learners, according to a letter sent to state officials last month from Deborah S. Delisle, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

On special education, California had asked to use field tests with its students who are most cognitively impaired, as well as not report those scores or use them in its accountability system. The department approved California’s use of the field test and its suspension of their use for accountability, but said the data still need to be published for all students in special education.

And, Ms. Delisle wrote, California needs to come up with a clear way forward on reporting the results of alternative assessments for students with disabilities. If the state doesn’t outline a high-quality plan, it could find itself at risk of losing federal Title I funds for disadvantaged students and federal funds for students in special education.

When it comes to tests for English-learners, California wanted to change its accountability plan for that subgroup. It asked the federal department if it could set a deadline of 2017-18 for having assessments for ELLs aligned with the state’s standards fully in place. But the department said California must outline a plan for having the assessments fully in place by 2016-17, or it could risk losing aid for those students, too.

Falling Short

In its letter to the federal Education Department looking for flexibility on the tutoring requirement, the California Department of Education said it had received complaints from districts, tutoring providers, and parents that some providers had falsified enrollment, attendance, and other documents. And, the letter noted, the federal agency’s own inspector general also pinpointed instances of fraud and corruption among tutoring providers, in an audit published in October 2013.

The California department says that it has a rigorous process for investigating tutoring-services providers, but that it can take months to actually terminate the contracts of unscrupulous actors.

There’s precedent for California’s request. The Chicago school system got a similar waiver when now-U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the CEO of that district. As education secretary, Mr. Duncan permitted states to allow their districts to get out from under the requirement in the NCLB law that all schools not making adequate yearly progress, or AYP, set aside funding for tutoring and school choice. That was a big factor in many states’ decisions to seek the Obama administration’s waivers.

Even some states without waivers have been able to get flexibility on the law’s tutoring-set-aside requirement. Districts designated for improvement under NCLB in North Dakota and Washington state, for instance, can provide their own tutoring services.

But the entire state of California is much larger—and it is asking to funnel the dollars to extended learning time, which is a key difference.

If California were to get approval for the flexibility, it would be one more blow to tutoring providers, which have suffered serious setbacks since the Obama administration’s waivers allowed more than 40 states and the District of Columbia to be relieved of the tutoring requirement.

“Once waivers are granted statewide, it is ‘end game,’ ” said Jim Giovannini, the executive director of the Education Industry Association, based in Parkridge, Ill.

The trade group screens its members for quality, so Mr. Giovannini feels confident in the providers that belong to his organization. But not everyone is offering great service, he added.

“Let’s be honest,” he said. “There are companies who have given the industry a bad name.”

At the same time, he said, there are plenty of good providers, and students in the Golden State may end up missing out on their help, in his view.

“I feel really bad for students who need these services,” Mr. Giovannini said. He suggested that companies that have done a lot of NCLB-style tutoring should begin partnering with districts on other types of services.

A version of this article appeared in the June 03, 2015 edition of Education Week as California Seeks Waiver on Use of Federal Title I Tutoring Money

Events

School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education What the Research Says Gifted Education Comes Up Short for Low-Income and Black Students
Wildly disparate gifted education programs can give a minor boost in reading, but the benefits mainly accrue to wealthy and white students.
8 min read
Silhouette of group of students with data overlay.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Special Education What the Research Says Most Students With Disabilities Still Attend Remotely. Teachers Say They're Falling Behind
A new survey finds that students with disabilities are struggling in virtual classes, even with added support from teachers.
3 min read
Image shows a young femal student working on a computer from phone, interfacing with an adult female.
Getty
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Special Education Whitepaper
A Comprehensive Guide to the IEP Process
Download this guide to learn strategies for bringing together all stakeholders to plan an IEP that addresses the whole child; using relia...
Content provided by n2y
Special Education What Biden's Pick for Ed. Secretary Discussed With Disability Rights Advocates
Advocates for students with disabilities want Biden to address discipline and the effects of COVID-19 on special education.
2 min read
Miguel Cardona, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Education, speaks after being introduced at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, as Biden, right, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, look on.
Miguel Cardona, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Education, speaks after being introduced at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., Dec. 23, 2020, as Biden, right, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, left, look on.
Carolyn Kaster/AP