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Michigan fails in oversight of tutoring

By Kendra Snyder and Douglass Dowty

The U.S. Department of Education released an audit of the Michigan Department of Education, finding the department had failed to:

Oversee the notification of parents whose children were eligible for tutoring and school of choice services under No Child Left Behind.

Provide MEAP results in a timely manner.

Monitor the quality and effectiveness of tutoring providers.

Source: U.S. Department of Education

The state Department of Education has failed to adequately monitor tutoring services required under the No Child Left Behind Act, according to an audit the U.S. Department of Education released Wednesday.

The audit found that during last school year, the state education department did not oversee the notification of parents whose children were eligible for tutoring and school of choice services, nor did schools offer all such services. It also did not provide high school Michigan Educational Assessment Program test results in a timely manner and didn't monitor the effectiveness of tutoring providers.

Last year, only 11,444 students received tutoring out of a pool of 103,282 who were eligible.

"The state is poorly equipped to deal with demand," said Detroit resident Kierre Brown, 36, a mother of three children who received tutoring under the No Child law. "Getting assistance was like pulling a lion's tooth out of its mouth. If no parent is watching to stand and fight, they get rolled over."

Brown took her children to the Oak Park Learning Disabilities Clinic, a state-approved tutor, and said although she received good service, finding information about providers was difficult.

Michigan Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley said department staff has responded to the audit and are working to comply with the education law.

"It's not that we didn't want to comply with federal laws," he said. "It's just such an extensive law that education departments across the country have had to implement it in stages."

No Child Left Behind requires schools that fail to meet benchmarks on state tests for three consecutive years must offer students the choice to transfer to another school within the district or seek tutoring.

Schools that do not meet state standards must send letters to parents detailing their tutoring and school of choice options. The audit found that the education department did not make certain districts had done so.

Lynne Master, director of the Oak Park clinic, said notification about available services was especially bad. An event to inform parents about possible tutoring providers in Pontiac last year attracted no parents because the district didn't publicize the date and location, she said.

The state said it will send out packets this month to districts with sample parent notification letters, Ackley said. Education department officials will review parent notification letters submitted by the districts and conduct regional workshops in September about school choice and tutoring.

The audit also found that the state education department did not monitor effectiveness of tutoring providers, instead relying on districts to report the problems.

Starting with this school year, Ackley said the department would compare MEAP results of students who received tutoring against those who didn't. A report will be released in 2007.

Gary Marx, assistant superintendent of the Oak Park School District, said the federal government didn't make it easy for school districts to comply.

"I don't have any gripes with Michigan Department of Education. They're asked to do things with resources not geared up to do what law requires," he said. "It's what the government's done all along: squeeze states who don't have available resources to comply."

You can reach at (313) 222-2300 or ksnyder@detnews.com.

— Kendra Snyder and Douglass Dowty
Detroit News


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