This story was updated on May 7 to include action and comments by the State Board of Education.
The State Board of Education isn’t giving up on the hope that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan might grant California at least a partial waiver from the No Child Left Behind law that he has given to 43 other states.
At its meeting on Thursday, the state board voted to request that the U.S. Department of Education give school districts more authority to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in Title I funding for poor children on after-school or summer programs in math and English language arts. Districts currently must use that money – equal to 15 percent of their Title I funding for low-income students – on private tutoring companies over which districts have no control. Districts also must notify parents in low-performing schools of their right to transfer their children to better schools and must allocate 5 percent of Title I dollars to bus children to the new schools. Under the draft waiver proposal, districts could put unused transportation money toward district-run after-school and summer programs. The state is planning to seek a four-year waiver, starting this fall.
“The use of private providers is not necessarily the best way to provide supplemental services (tutoring),” state board President Mike Kirst said Monday. After-school and summer programs would be better aligned to what’s being taught in the classroom. “I believe districts would be more effective with flexibility” in raising student achievement, he said.
Duncan started giving state waivers to NCLB in 2011, after a deeply divided Congress could not agree on changes to reauthorize the law. That remains the case, and so the law, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, limps along as written in 2002 with flaws that both Republicans and Democrats agree should be fixed, although they disagree over how to do so. It’s unclear whether a bipartisan majority will come together to rewrite it before President Barack Obama leaves office.
Meanwhile, Duncan has given Title I flexibility and waivers from some of NCLB’s penalties to all but seven states. California last sought a waiver three years ago, but Duncan denied it because Gov. Jerry Brown and the state board refused to agree to several conditions, including a requirement that school districts include standardized test scores as a significant component in evaluating teachers. That would have required the Legislature to amend state law to mandate using test scores, which Brown and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson opposed.
Since then, eight California school districts, which formed the California Office to Reform Education, or CORE, did agree to the conditions and received the nation’s only waiver given specifically to school districts. The districts (now six after Sacramento City Unified dropped out and Sanger Unified is not reapplying) include some of the state’s largest unified districts: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Fresno, Santa Ana, San Francisco and Oakland. CORE’s application to continue the waiver is now pending.
States with a waiver no longer have to meet the demands of Annual Yearly Progress, the law’s requirement that all students, with few exceptions, score at grade level in English language arts and math on state tests. Schools with less than 100 percent of students scoring at proficiency are designated “schools in need of improvement” and must notify parents of that status and allow them to send their children to better-performing schools. They also must commit 15 percent of Title I funding for students to receive tutoring from a list of providers approved by the state Department of Education.
The department cited a federal audit that found cases of fraud and corruption by tutoring providers and noted that it also received unspecified complaints of “inappropriate practices” of providers.
The state board is asking only for a narrowly tailored waiver from the Title I private tutoring and school choice requirements. Districts would continue to notify parents whether their schools failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress status. At this point, that would consist of nearly all schools in the state receiving Title I dollars.
Districts currently are prohibited from advising parents which tutoring companies they know to be most effective. Parents can choose any tutor from an approved state list. Under the waver, districts could continue to contract with tutors that they deemed effective. Board member Patricia Rucker said she would be surprised if districts didn’t continue to work with tutors that have served students’ needs.
Kirst said that the state is currently creating a new accountability system, based on broad measures of student achievement, and so is not willing to commit to a system of school reforms that Duncan has demanded for a full-fledged waiver.
Not including the CORE districts, California districts had to set aside nearly $400 million in Title I funding for tutoring and transportation over the past three years, according to the proposed waiver request.
In making the case for the waiver, the state Department of Education referred to national research that had found that private tutoring with Title I money has failed to raise student achievement. In addition, the department cited a federal audit that found cases of fraud and corruption by tutoring providers and noted that it also received complaints of “inappropriate practices” of providers that include “falsifying enrollment, attendance, and invoice documents; students not receiving services; parents/guardians and teachers not receiving feedback on the academic progress of students; and questionable marketing practices.”
Several letters from districts reinforce the state’s case for a waiver. The tutorial services, wrote Joilyn Campitiello, an administrator from the Duarte Unified School District, “are sporadic and ineffective. Only a small percentage of our parents take advantage of this service, and those that do often do not continue with the programs.”
In comments at the state board meeting, administrators from several districts elaborated on their bad experiences. Robin Bourbonnais, tutoring coordinator for the Riverside Unified School District, said that problems have gotten worse. She said she has seen invoices for nonexistent students and tutoring that never took place and instances of parents’ forged signatures. “My full-time job is detective work,” she said. “The $1.3 million that the district sets aside for tutoring could be better spent extending the school day.”
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MommaG 8 years ago8 years ago
There are wonderful companies out there, but the few bad ones ruin it. Schools are "getting the job" done, so one-to-one tutoring is highly successful for many students. Some parents don't take advantage of the program simply because they don't even know about it, nor do some teachers at eligible schools! It's too bad that the real goal isn't student progress, but is just money. Schools will not be able to … Read More
There are wonderful companies out there, but the few bad ones ruin it. Schools are “getting the job” done, so one-to-one tutoring is highly successful for many students. Some parents don’t take advantage of the program simply because they don’t even know about it, nor do some teachers at eligible schools! It’s too bad that the real goal isn’t student progress, but is just money. Schools will not be able to properly help these kids; there are after-school programs already, and obviously they’re not working. Most programs are with teachers that have taught all day and are tired during “tutoring time,” thus not giving instruction during this time. Other programs have college kids running programs, which resembles baby-sitting more than tutoring. It’s no wonder so many CA students are continuing to fail year after year. Let’s get rid of the terrible SES companies and only work with the “good” ones. The real world doesn’t work the way the CDE runs!
Hanu Man 8 years ago8 years ago
The solution to this problem is simple… California should commit to basing part of teacher evaluations on student test scores in order to obtain a waiver. This is what the Dept of Education is requesting.
Of course, the California Teachers’ Association opposes this increased accountability for teachers.
TheMorrigan 8 years ago8 years ago
Do we really want to be like TN or NY? Or if we were truly impressively incompetent we could be like Florida or some other bungling state where they have tied test scores to teacher evaluations.
Don 8 years ago8 years ago
Hanu Man, using test scores for evaluations is the equivalent of working on commission.This form of "accountability" will lead ever further down the road to teaching-to-the-test and all the negatives that entails. Even if I agreed in principle to linking teacher pay to test scores which I don't and not only because it is unclear how to responsibly do that, the effect of high stakes testing on education has not led to increased … Read More
Hanu Man, using test scores for evaluations is the equivalent of working on commission.This form of “accountability” will lead ever further down the road to teaching-to-the-test and all the negatives that entails. Even if I agreed in principle to linking teacher pay to test scores which I don’t and not only because it is unclear how to responsibly do that, the effect of high stakes testing on education has not led to increased achievement, but the opposite, spearheading an assault on a more immersive, multilayered literature, arts and science-based education. The test culture is a virus that has infected public education, failed in its intent, but enriched the few who profit from it. Let’s stop doing Pearson’s bidding.
Bruce William Smith 8 years ago8 years ago
The major issue to remember here is that No Child Left Behind is a pitiful law to have on the books (are we anywhere near 100% proficiency yet, George?) and should be repealed altogether, including its onerous annual testing mandate that has turned too much of American education into test prep drudgery. If we were wise, it would be replaced, in part, with an Upper Secondary Education Act that would enable divergent pathways to be … Read More
The major issue to remember here is that No Child Left Behind is a pitiful law to have on the books (are we anywhere near 100% proficiency yet, George?) and should be repealed altogether, including its onerous annual testing mandate that has turned too much of American education into test prep drudgery. If we were wise, it would be replaced, in part, with an Upper Secondary Education Act that would enable divergent pathways to be publicly supported in the last three years of high school, which is the basic approach in Finland, which has the best state education system in the world. Better still, federal legislation should permit Americans to adapt a Singaporean approach to our municipal schooling, since if there is one system better than Finland’s, it’s Singapore’s. But achieving the reasonable comity in Washington, D.C. necessary for such legislation appears too much to ask for; so the best we can hope for is for the federal government to remember that it is a federal, not a national, government, that states’ organization of public schooling was a condition of their joining the union, and to realize that the federal department of education, which Governor Brown and Superintendent Torlakson have wisely stood up to, needs to stop being a hindrance to the improvement of state education in California.
Manuel 8 years ago8 years ago
I think I mentioned this before, my apologies if I have. Anyway, LAUSD spent a considerable chunk of money in 2012-13 on one-on-one tutoring with next to nothing to show for it. That did not please Deasy since he wanted higher scores, or so I was told. Because of the waiver, no outside tutoring was offered in 2013-14 and promises of "intervention" during Spring 2014 and Summer 2014 at 138 schools were made. But this … Read More
I think I mentioned this before, my apologies if I have.
Anyway, LAUSD spent a considerable chunk of money in 2012-13 on one-on-one tutoring with next to nothing to show for it. That did not please Deasy since he wanted higher scores, or so I was told.
Because of the waiver, no outside tutoring was offered in 2013-14 and promises of “intervention” during Spring 2014 and Summer 2014 at 138 schools were made. But this did not happen either and the Title I funds that were to pay for this were carried over into 2014-15 to the tune of $63 million out of a $290 million allocation.
Examination of the second interim financial report for 2014-15 indicates that once again these funds will not be spent, all why denying funds to schools with enrollments where 49.99% or less are Title I-qualified students. If the largest district in the state is doing this with badly needed federal funds without any repercussion, why should we expect anything different elsewhere? Maybe Duarter USD might be different. But if it isn’t, who is going to hold them responsible?
I personally believe that school districts should have flexibility to spend these funds, but if nobody can ensure that they are actually and appropriately spent, what’s the point?