Monday March 12th was the start of something big. In an effort to improve our schools, we launched the Education Issue campaign with a goal of redesigning the SES After School Tutoring Program. Each year, MPS spends several million dollars in federal funds on tutoring services for students in need. After listening to the frustration of parents and teachers alike, we set out improve the way this money is being spent.
MPS spent about $5.3 million in federal funds for these tutoring services last year. This school year, the district has set aside almost $7.5 million for the program – money meant for the betterment of our children’s education.
While the original program was well intended, the way it currently functions leaves ample room for improvement. This tutoring is provided by state-approved private businesses that receive millions of dollars in taxpayer funds. Some are non-profit; some are for profit. Some are local; some are national. Some are trying to make a difference; many are failing to
The flaws we want to change in the current SES system include:
Lack of meaningful oversight
The state and the district do not have adequate funding or staff to oversee the tutoring companies. Each year, the state makes scheduled site visits for only 3 of 23 tutoring companies. Parents have no say in which companies provide the tutoring.
Tutoring companies are not being held accountable for the progress of their students, despite the fact that
federal law requires evaluation and dismissal of those failing to increase academic achievement. In many cases, parents have no access to or feedback from the tutors.
The tutoring companies decide who is qualified to tutor and how much or how little training and oversight they will give their tutors. The tutors are not required to align their teaching with the student’s daily lessons.
Not reaching enough students
The number of students eligible for Supplemental Educational Services in MPS was 11,802, but only 2,370 students were served, according to MPS.
Considering that this tutoring can cost nearly $2,000 in federal dollars per child, clearly, it is not functioning well. Common Ground will be involved in correcting the program to make it more transparent, putting specific measures and goals in place and hold those providing the services accountable.
Recently, we have received commitments from key leaders in education to set the course for improvement. Both state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton made public commitments to work with Common Ground towards revamping the program and getting the word out. That is some exciting hopeful progress! Armed with knowledge and a plan, we can turn this failing program into a grade A service for our kids.
The next step is for the No Child Left Behind Waiver to be passed. Many Common Ground members signed a petition to support this effort at the March 12th event. We will learn in early June if the waiver was approved. From there we will have a quick turn around – the new program will have to be in place by September 2012.
Stay tuned for updates as we move forward.