States Passing Federal Tutoring Test
By Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer
Most states are meeting a new federal requirement that faltering schools offer students free tutoring and other extra help in learning, a top U.S. Department of Education official said.
"I don't think any of the states are behind in terms of implementation," Nina S. Rees, deputy under secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, told Stateline.org in an interview.
After-school tutoring and other help, known as supplemental services, are an important component of the federal education law commonly known as No Child Left Behind, which President Bush signed into law January 2002.
Under that law, schools that the states deem "in need of improvement" for two years must offer tutoring and other help or let students transfer to better public schools
Rees said 43 states have posted online lists of companies and education agencies authorized to provide free tutoring and other help, a key requirement to meeting the mandate. State lists include 1,405 providers, made up primarily of private companies (795) or local education agencies and public schools (401), according to the department. Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, West Virgina and Wyoming don't have providers listed online.
The law requires that states use some of the education money they get from the federal government to provide supplemental services for under-performing students or pay to transferring them to better schools.
Rees said the department doesn't know yet how many students accepted supplemental services this year, but will know more in December when states file reports with the department.
Rees is responsible for overseeing federal school choice, tutoring and supplemental services requirements. Before joining the Department of Education, she was a member of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff.
The department is monitoring state compliance with No Child Left Behind. It has already made good on its promise to sanction states that don't pass muster on different aspects of the law. This year, Georgia lost more than $783,000 and Minnesota lost more than $113,000 when both states failed to administer or use the proper school testing data.
"On a case-by-case basis, the secretary is going to decide how to treat those states" that don't meet the requirements, Rees said. The punishment will differ vastly for states that may have "technical glitches" or problems with contractors, compared to states that the administration decides are "asleep at the wheel" and are not really trying to meet the requirements.
Patty Sullivan, deputy executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers' division of advocacy and strategic alliance, said, "supplemental services are working very differently in different regions." The council, a D.C-based trade group, is composed of top state education officials.
California, for example, had thousands of choices to pick from when the state was coming up with its list of state-approved tutoring and other services, Sullivan said. Some states such as Alaska and Wyoming got just a few applications, making it hard for them to come up with the best providers, she said.
Scott Young, an education expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures said while states are complying with the new requirements, they need to do a better job of letting parents and students know about what's available.
"I know a lot of states are not providing the supplemental services to the large percentage of students who eligible for them," Young told Stateline.org.