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NY City is Turning to Private Tutoring to Meet Federal School Mandates

As the city Department of Education withdraws from directly delivering the free remedial services required by the No Child Left Behind law, private tutoring groups are predicting record levels of business.

The city provided the bulk of tutoring services required by the federal law for the first two years, 88% in 2002-03 and 65% last year. But in a major reversal, the city now is apparently outsourcing virtually all tutoring.

The education department plans an announcement today about new policies for tutoring financially needy students at failing schools. City officials who were contacted late last week and during the weekend declined to comment on the details. But private groups that stand to receive in the range of $30 million for what are known as "supplemental educational services" say the city is pulling out of the tutoring business.

"Last year, New York City was its own provider. This year they're not going to do that," said the business development manager for EdSolutions Inc., Stephen Johansson. His Nashville based company is jumping into the market here for supplemental educational services because of the city's new approach.

"We're a for-profit organization. We believe our services are good," Mr. Johansson said. "They will help kids, and there's an opportunity to be profitable there as well."

Although EdSolutions is still hammering out an agreement with the city, he said he expects his company will work in 30 to 60 schools.

A vice president at Kaplan Inc., Seppy Basili, said his company worked in about 30 schools last year. This year, largely due to "the void" left by the education department, he is expecting to be in about 50 schools. He said the city has been "brokering," matching schools that need tutors with available providers, for the first time this year.

The supplemental services director at a BiNet Comprehensive Educational Outreach, Leah Schlager, said the department is encouraging schools to invite private providers to meet with parents, teachers, and principals and explain what they could offer students. BiNet is a smaller tutoring group,

Providers are paid based on the number of students who enroll with them and the number of times the students attend, up to a maximum of about $1,800 for each student. The funds are administered by the city but provided by the federal government under No Child Left Behind.

The chairwoman of the City Council's Committee on Education, Eva Moskowitz of Manhattan, said the new plan should help students by enabling them to "shop around" for tutors among the private groups.

"The DOE was providing academic services when it had failed to educate students adequately," she said. "There was something a little strange about that - the very school that had not been successful is going to provide service. As a parent at a school where the school is not adequately performing, I would want someone else to do the remediation."

There are 75 options in the city, according to a list of approved supplemental educational services providers that was posted Friday by the state Education Department. They include such national firms such as Newton Learning, which is a division of Edison Schools; Sylvan Education Solutions, and Platform Learning.

There also are small, community based groups, such as the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, the Queens Child Guidance Center, and the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island.

The city education department is holding a tutoring fair for parents October 4 at the Tweed Courthouse, near City Hall.

The CEO of Platform Learning, Eugene Wade Jr., said that with the deadline for applying for the free tutoring services just two weeks away, his company's "phones are ringing off the hook."

He said Platform worked with about 11,000 students last year in 45 school buildings. This year, he expects to work with two to three times as many students in about 90 school buildings.

Driving up business for the free services, in addition to the education department's exit from the market, is families' greater awareness of what's available this year, Mr. Wade said.

Still, he said, "I think our biggest competitor is a lack of knowledge."

Only one in five of the 40,000 eligible students signed up for the free tutoring services last year.

"There are so many kids who are eligible for this," Mr. Wade said, "and 80% of the parents we speak with have never heard about it."

— Julia Levy
New York Sun


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