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NCLB Outrages

Philly Schools Told to Change Tutoring Setup

Ohanian Comment: Here's a comment from Leon Williams, a lawyer who operates Action Reading, who appealed the district method for providing tutoring.

"The reality of it is: I am not in it for the money.What I'm in it for is that the policy of the No Child Left Behind act was to give parents additional options and choices, and those additional options were meant to be private tutoring providers."


The way low-income children receive after-school tutoring from the the Philadelphia School District will have to change, the U.S. Department of Education has ruled.

While an entity of the district can still offer federally funded tutoring classes, the ruling stated, district officials must soon make adjustments that could alter who teaches, and where and what they teach.

Owners of private tutoring services yesterday celebrated the ruling, after having complained for more than a year that the district unfairly steers students to its own after-school program.

"This is a big ruling for parents, children and private-tutoring providers. What the school district has done circumvented the No Child Left Behind law," said Leon Williams, founder of Action Reading & Math, Inc., who is one of the owners who filed the complaint - first with the state Department of Education, then on appeal to the feds.

District chief executive Paul Vallas denied any wrongdoing and said he was pleased that the ruling affirmed the district's right to offer tutoring through its business entity.

"We consider the ruling to be a victory," he said, adding that any program changes that must be made would not cost the district additional money.

A provision of the No Child law requires local school districts to pay for tutoring services for the lowest-income students at schools that have failed to make academic improvement for three years.

The law bars school districts identified as failing from offering the services, which are paid for from federal Title 1 funds.

To get around that provision, the Philadelphia district applied to the state to become a tutoring provider by using the name Intermediate Unit #26 - a separate business entity.

Williams and other private providers charged that because the district's IU tutoring classes serving 2,410 students and its regular extended-day program serving upwards of 47,000 students shared the same classrooms, class times and instructors, there was no difference between them.

Thus, they said, the failing school district is in effect running tutoring classes in violation of federal law.

While affirming that a district's intermediate unit can provide tutoring mandated by the No Child Left Behind law, the U.S. Department of Education ruling said the state Education Department should not have approved the Philadelphia district's IU to be a provider because it was not separate from other district programs.

Attempts to reach state education officials for comment were not successful.

The ruling gave the school district's IU until the end of the school year to stop providing students with tutoring "under the present circumstances."

The state Department of Education was ordered to ensure that parents in the program are given the option of selecting a private tutoring provider.

"The IU has to become an independent body," said Susan Aspey, press secretary for the U.S. department. "Currently, it's part of the district. They need to set

— Mensah M. Dean
Philadelphia Daily News


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