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NCLB Outrages

Thousands not getting free tutoring program

By Joe Robertson

School is out at Kansas City’s Southeast Zoo Academy, but instead of boarding the idling buses, more than 150 students are rallying with privately contracted tutors in the cafeteria to march right back into classrooms.

Rather than going home “probably to watch TV or something,” said 11-year-old Faleshae Allen, “I’m going to learn more about reading.”

But thousands of Kansas City area students in underperforming schools aren’t getting the free tutoring they are eligible for under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Schools receiving Title I federal money that have fallen short of performance benchmarks for at least three years must offer parents outside tutoring services from a state list of approved providers.

Yet most eligible children — nearly nine of 10 nationwide — aren’t getting No Child Left Behind tutoring. And many services are just now getting under way, six months into the school year.

The Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan., school districts have struggled against similar obstacles. Some tutoring companies back out. Families can be hard to reach. Many have competing after-school obligations. Many can’t provide necessary transportation.


â–  Through February, more than half the tutoring services on Missouri’s list for Kansas City had backed out, forcing schools to scramble to match willing families with other programs, said Mike Huke, Kansas City’s director of consolidated federal programs.

With annual state performance tests barely a month away, some 250 of the 1,305 students who signed up for tutoring still needed to be matched with an alternative program.

The 1,305 enrollees represent 9.2 percent of the 14,152 eligible students in Kansas City district and charter schools.

â–  Kansas City, Kan., created an outside tutoring service by going to local social service agency School Linked Services Inc. after zero students participated in No Child Left Behind tutoring a year ago.

The district could not get enough tutoring companies to work on school sites to interest any parents, said Deputy Superintendent Steve Gering.

School Linked Services worked with the district to set up a program approved by the state, with local teachers. This year, the district reports more than 50 percent participation.

Nearly 600 students out of 1,180 eligible in Kansas City, Kan., are enrolled.

â–  Leavenworth, which had one school a year ago that had to offer the Kansas tutor list, is free of the obligation this year, and that’s fine with Terry McCary, Leavenworth director of school improvement.

None of the parents of 145 eligible students last year were interested in services that gave choices of going to Lawrence or Kansas City or on the Internet, McCary said.

Missouri and Kansas woes reflect what the U.S. Department of Education says has hampered schools across the nation. In the 2003-04 school year 226,000 out of some 1.9 million eligible students enrolled in No Child Left Behind tutoring, a rate of less than 12 percent.

Even in some situations in Kansas City where tutoring may be working, there are grumbles.

The companies serving the most Kansas City students are Sylvan offshoot Education Station and Edison Inc.’s Newton Learning.

Education Station is tutoring about 460 Kansas City students and Newton Learning is tutoring at least 125, according to the district. This is not good news to some school board members, who say past contracts between the district and Sylvan and Newton did not result in improved achievement.

“They’ve made enough money off the school district,” board member Marilyn Simmons said.

School officials and tutoring services agree that it is too soon to tell whether No Child Left Behind’s tutoring requirement is improving student performance. Most of the area schools that are required to provide tutoring only this year fell on to the list of schools not making adequate improvement for three years in a row.

But the tutoring companies and the schools will be measuring the results.

Education Station President Jeffrey Cohen says success is already happening and will grow.

“I think concerns about the implementation challenges are being painted with too broad a brush,” Cohen said. “The feedback we’re getting in Kansas City at schools like Southeast is it’s working pretty well there.”

Delays a problem

If more families and educators are going to share optimism for the tutoring services, several things need to happen, officials said.

States need to resolve their tutor and eligible school lists earlier in the school year, Huke said, and the companies and schools need to get promotional materials into parents’ hands.

Missouri did not complete its list of schools that would be required to offer the tutoring until shortly before Thanksgiving, Huke said. Most schools did not contact parents until mid-December or even January, he said.

Missouri’s supervisor of federal programs, Kaye Bertels, said the state will have to provide better lists of tutors to the school districts to prevent delays caused by tutors that pull off the list. Some companies, for example, need a minimum number of student enrollees at any one site to provide services.

Transportation tends to be the main obstacle, said Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Alexa Posny. Whether asking parents to pick up children after school after the buses have gone, or to drive their children to another site for tutoring, “transportation problems affect the very kids who need it (tutoring) the most.”

Corey Scholes, Southeast Zoo Academy principal, figures her school would have more than doubled its 150 after-school enrollment if it could provide transportation.

Charleen Hunter, one of the local educators hired by Education Station for Southeast, sees a surprising thirst for more schooling.

It’s not easy, she says. Not for the teachers like her, a special education teacher at Westport High School, who add to their full-day’s work. Not for the students who voluntarily stay after school.

“It’s tough for all of us,” she said. “The kids are antsy. You have to re-amp for this.”

She says this as a teacher who thinks she is, like the other teachers and students going back into classrooms, amped.

“I love the positive attitude,” she said. “You are going to see a change.”
First glance

â–  Nationwide and in many area schools, only about one of every 10 students eligible for free tutoring has been getting services offered through the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Inside on A-4: Which

students are eligible?
Free tutoring: Who is eligible?

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools that receive federal Title I money and have failed to meet state academic benchmarks for at least three years in a row must offer free tutoring from a state list of tutoring services.

Students from low-income families, usually those who qualify for free or reduced lunch, are eligible.

Area schools currently expected to offer free tutoring from the state’s list:

 Kansas City, Kan., School District: Central Middle, Rosedale Middle, Coronado Middle, Whittier Elementary, M.E. Pearson Elementary.

 Kansas City School District: Central High, Northeast High, Paseo Academy, Southeast High, Van Horn High, Westport High, J.A. Rogers Middle, Central Middle, Martin Luther King Middle, Meservey ACE Middle, Kansas City Middle School of the Arts, Northeast Middle, Nowlin Middle, Westport Middle, Bryant Elementary, Trailwoods Elementary, East Elementary, Foreign Language Academy, Garfield Elementary, Melcher Elementary, Richardson Elementary, Southeast Zoo Academy, Swinney/Volker Elementary, Troost Elementary, Garcia Elementary, Weeks Elementary, Wheatley Elementary.

 Kansas City charter schools: University Leadership Academy, Alta Vista Charter, Don Bosco Education Center, Hogan Preparatory Academy, Genesis School, Southwest Charter School, Urban Community Leadership Academy, Academy of Kansas City, Tolbert Community Academy, Banneker Charter Academy, Della Lamb Elementary, Derrick Thomas Academy.

How and when should parents be notified?

At or near the start of the school year, usually by letter and in regular parent meetings. Families enrolling in the middle of the year should be informed at that time. The school should provide eligible families with a list of available tutoring services. Parents who think their child is eligible should contact the school principal.

Why are relatively few families participating?

Reasons vary. Some schools have reported difficulty with tutoring services that decline to participate for various reasons. In some cases, parents must provide transportation and are unable or unwilling to do so. In some cases, schools already offer after-school programs that may compete with the No Child Left Behind tutoring services.

How many students are getting No Child Left Behind tutoring?

Nationwide in 2003-04, the U.S. Department of Education reports, 1.9 million students were eligible for free tutoring and 226,024 enrolled, or 11.9 percent.

— Joe Robertson
Kansas City Star


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