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NCLB Outrages

Rochester Union Program to Provide NCLB Tutoring

Ohanian Comment: And now a word from the "If we don't do it, someone else will" school of morality.

Rochester Teachers Association's Dial-A-Teacher program has been approved by the State Education Department as a provider of Supplemental Educational Services under the federal No Child Left Behind act.

While acknowledging that some provisions of the NCLB act could undermine public education, RTA President Adam Urbanski said the union opted to take a proactive approach toward the federal program.

"It's crucial that we take advantage of any opportunities in the law to help our students succeed," he said. "Teachers unions should not sit by and watch as private, outside organizations are given funds designated for public education to teach our students."

In New York state, tutoring agencies of all kinds (both for-profit and non-profit) have been approved to offer the federally funded tutoring services. So far, in the Rochester area, 11 providers have been authorized to offer their services to students in eight eligible schools.

The RTA's Dial-A-Teacher began offering NCLB tutoring on a trial basis this spring in English Language Arts and math, with 15 tutors working with 47 students.

The work is a natural extension of Dial-A-Teacher, which has been helping students with homework questions for 22-plus years. More than 130,000 students have received help over the telephone or have sought walk-in assistance at branches of the Rochester public library and recreation centers. Six teachers, including one Spanish-speaking teacher, are available from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday to respond to phone calls from students and parents. Most funding for Dial-A-Teacher programs comes from the Rochester TA.

"Who better to offer tutoring than our teachers?" said Dial-A-Teacher director Mark Powers. "Our teachers are the ones who best know the students, the curriculum and the schools."

While NCLB does not require that providers employ certified teachers, having certified teachers will be a hallmark of the union's after-school tutorial program, Powers said. Recruiting well-qualified tutors should not be difficult: When RTA held an informational meeting for interested tutors, more than 100 attended. More than 200 teachers have filed applications.

Under NCLB, students in schools and charter schools that have been identified for two or more years as needing improvement must be offered the option of receiving Supplemental Educational Services such as tutoring. The district is required to set aside a portion of its Title I funds to pay for such services, including tutoring, after-school help and summer school.

Eligible students will be from a low-income family as defined by the school district or charter school. A student's past academic performance is not a criterion for eligibility. The federal government establishes a maximum per-pupil amount that a district must make available for SES. If federal funding is not sufficient to cover services, then priority must be given to eligible students who are performing at lowest levels.

School districts and charter schools required to provide supplemental services must annually notify parents of the availability of services; parents may choose from a list of approved providers. The list of approved providers is also available on SED's Web site, www.emsc.nysed.gov/deputy/nclb/ses.

So far, RTA is the first union to offer tutoring services under the NCLB act. According to SED's list of providers, many school districts and BOCES are approved providers, offering everything from early evening to Saturday sessions. Some higher ed institutions like Kingsborough Community College and Bank Street College of Education have also been approved to offer tutoring services.

— Sylvia Saunders
New York Teacher


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