- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Thousands of D.C. public school students eligible to receive tutoring services under the federal No Child Left Behind Act are still waiting to be placed in such programs — a failure seen in school districts across the country.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools that have not made adequate academic progress for three or more years are required to offer two options to parents: Transfer their child to another school or enroll them in federally funded tutoring programs.

According to the D.C. Public Schools Master Education Plan released in February, roughly 30,000 students at 80 schools were eligible to receive tutoring services under the act. About 6,000 students signed up for the services, and of them 4,445 have been placed with tutors, according to the plan.

“There are definitely some logistical issues to the program,” said Tamika Maultsby, program coordinator for the District’s supplemental services, who said the total number of eligible students is closer to 24,000, and the small number of students receiving services is “definitely not something that’s unique to D.C.”

Miss Maultsby was referring to Department of Education reports that only 226,000 of about 2 million eligible students received tutoring nationwide in the 2003-04 school year, the most recent period for which statistics are available.

Beatriz Otero, executive director of the Columbia Heights-based nonprofit provider CentroNia, said the newness of the Supplemental Educational Services (SES) program and a disconnect between tutoring providers and individual schools has led to “a system that still has lots of kinks in it.”

“Systems have to build infrastructures to manage something like this,” Miss Otero said. “This is not by any means a thing you can put in overnight and manage it. You have multiple vendors in many schools serving many children, and the lack of a really solid infrastructure is key.”

Funding and the ability to pay vendors in a timely fashion have hampered efforts in reaching the students in need.

The school system spends about $5.3 million of its federal Title 1 funds on tutoring, an amount more than required by No Child Left Behind but not enough to provide services to all eligible students.

“When this mandate was put in place, it wasn’t like we were given extra [funds]”, Miss Maultsby said. “It was essentially, ‘This is what you’re mandated to do, and you must use your existing funds to do so.’

“We just don’t have enough money to serve all students that are eligible,” she said.

Some of the 37 tutoring service providers in the District say the SES program is too unstable for companies to invest in it. When the tutoring program began, the amount of money allocated per student fluctuated, affecting how many tutoring hours some for-profit providers would offer.

At the same time, some companies said they have had problems getting paid in a timely manner.

“It’s not a particularly good environment to work in,” said one provider executive who did not want to be identified. “My guess is that there are probably a lot of local providers that want to be a part of this system and are not able to ramp up their services because of the unpredictability of the funding and the lack of funding.”

D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey has promised the Board of Education a report on the provision of supplemental services. Tommy Wells, a board member who represents Wards 5 and 6 of the District, said he expects to have the report by Wednesday.

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