WASHINGTON – Maryland students benefit significantly more than most students nationwide from No Child Left Behind tutoring programs, a state school administrator testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Maryland’s model tutoring program was among three presented to a House Committee on Education and Labor subcommittee in a hearing to consider ways to improve the quality of and access to No Child Left Behind’s supplemental education services program.
Congress is now considering reauthorization of the federal NCLB program and so is examining the federal education plan in multiple ways.
“We are never content with compliance. We always with our children try to ensure compliance, and pass that on to excellence. And I think we are on the way to doing that with our SES program,” said Ann E. Chafin, assistant state superintendent.
“I have to say up front that this takes enormous planning and enormous resources to be able to ensure that this program is what is appropriate for each of our children.”
The No Child Left Behind Act requires that districts with schools that receive “Title I” financial assistance, but that have not met state performance goals for three consecutive years, offer low-income students additional educational services, like tutoring. Title 1 funding is designed to help schools with high percentages of poor students meet state academic standards.
Panelists testifying before the subcommittee included three school system representatives, a civil rights advocate and a federal director of education issues.
They addressed how participation in tutoring programs has changed in the past six years, how providers can better work with districts to deliver such services, how states monitor and evaluate the system, and how the U.S. Department of Education monitors program implementation nationwide.
Wednesday’s hearing will play a critical role in the committee’s efforts to understand how NCLB provisions are working and where they can be implemented or improved to ensure that every student receives “a world-class education,” said subcommittee Chairman Dale Kildee, D-Mich.
This school year, No Child Left Behind provided $12.7 billion in federal funds to more than 50,000 public schools nationwide to improve the education of low-income students, said Cornelia M. Ashby, the General Accounting Office’s director of education, workforce and income security issues.
Participation in the tutoring component for this year has not yet been calculated. But the year before, participation nationwide jumped from 12 to 19 percent, still a far cry from Maryland’s 68 percent average usage.
State-sponsored tutoring programs are working in Maryland, Chafin said. She attributed Maryland’s success to the state’s rigorous application process, selection and review of tutoring providers.
“We started out not as rigorous as we are now,” Chafin said. “We’ve learned from every year’s experience.”
Today’s providers must present goals for their supplemental reading and mathematics programs, and show how they align closely with Maryland’s voluntary state curriculum, Chafin said.
“We want to be sure that the services being provided to the students actually will advantage them when they face the assessment programs and the instruction going on. There should be a match.”
A Jan. 23 article in Education Daily referred to Maryland’s monitoring system as a “data dream.”
Since 2002, Maryland has tracked each student receiving tutoring services, provider and local system’s success — measuring hours of contact between students and tutors, success of parent outreach methods and other benchmarks.
Maryland also has been successful increasing parental involvement and understanding of the program, Chafin said.
Local school systems must engage in aggressive parent outreach, she told House members, because parents select tutoring providers or their children can’t participate.
Maryland’s SES program has its challenges, Chafin said.
The salaries of two full-time coordinators cut into other aspects of Maryland’s Title I program.
And rural school districts, especially in Eastern Shore and Western Maryland counties, do not have access to nearly as many providers as other counties.
In Kent County, for example, Chafin said, so few students are eligible for the program, the county has difficulty meeting numbers-based criteria to warrant assignment of particular providers.
Online tutoring systems are available, but pose unique monitoring challenges.
“So we’re continuing to work with our rural schools to encourage them to do parent outreach, so their numbers go up, so that we can, in fact, have vendors available.”
Maryland’s small size provides advantages, Chafin said. Fewer school districts mean closer relationships with program specialists and providers.
Only six of Maryland’s 24 school districts must offer SES programs, Chafin said, whereas some states must provide technical assistance, monitoring and communication to hundreds of school districts.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity, but it brings with it a lot of responsibility.”