The tutoring requirement became the late-inning replacement for the favored privatization pitch, school vouchers, that was pulled from NCLB in the late stages of the negotiations that eventually assured passage in 2001. Privatization would have to take a more subtle route, embedded in the increasingly-draconian sanctions that would result from impossible test performance demands over time. In the meantime, the best that could be arranged for the eager education industry was a massive giveaway in the form of tutoring contracts to private ventures that have sprung up since NCLB passage.
Unlike the strict oversight of schools receiving federal funds to stringently implement the renewed phonics orthodoxy pushed by Reading First, there are no federal accountability enforcement measures for the companies who are now collecting the carloads of cash from NCLB's tutoring program.
And carloads there are. The Baltimore Sun reports that a local company, Educate, Inc. saw profits jump 402% in 2004, as more and more urban schools failed to meet their mandated testing targets for the third year, thus requiring these schools to set aside up to 20% of their Federal Title I funds to pay tutoring companies to tutor students who request extra help.
In a recent study conducted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the American Institute for Social Justice, researchers found that Louisiana is the only state that monitors the effects of the private tutoring services on test score performance. The study, which examined 91 separate districts, found that $300 million was paid to tutoring companies in one year “with almost no scientific evidence that this spending has contributed to academic achievement."
As the draining of Title I funds continues, The Center for Policy Alternatives reports these interesting facts, some of which are from the same study cited above:
Of the 1,000 tutoring providers on current state approval lists, 63 percent are private companies. In future years, the market for in-school services by for-profit companies is estimated to be $20 to $30 billion. One of the biggest tutoring companies, Sylvan Education Solutions, expected to tutor 20,000 students in 2004, at $20 to $40 an hour. Some companies try to take unfair advantage. In one case in North Carolina, a tutoring company submitted an invoice for providing 48 students a total of 56 hours of instruction at a cost of $37,455—a rate of $674 an hour.It would seem, then, that NCLB's impossible demands that are advertised as accountability, and the draconian sanctions that are offered as remedies, really only apply to those public institutions that are in need of extremist makeovers or outright replacement. Left immune from these relentless bare-knuckled policies are those who are sure to profit from the resulting carnage.