"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, May 17, 2007

NCLB Corporate Tutoring Shows "Minimal Impact"

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

The Chicago Public Schools spent $50 million in federal money on after-school tutoring for 56,000 students last year but test scores show it got limited bang for its buck.

Tutored elementary students showed only slightly more gains in reading on state tests in 2006 than comparable kids who were eligible for tutoring but didn't get the extra help. Researchers called that a small but "significant'' uptick. There was a "negligible" gain in math, according to an analysis by the Chicago Public Schools released to the Sun-Times.

Low-scoring kids ineligible for tutoring -- because they went to a higher achieving school or came from a higher income family -- made the most progress in reading and math.

CPS officials even wonder whether the tutoring is worth the money. It's mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law for any low-income school that misses testing goals for three years. The state approves the tutoring firms and can remove them after two years of poor performance.

"It's a minimal impact, at best," said Erica Harris, who oversees tutoring for CPS. "On the micro level, I believe there are kids who need it and it's doing great things. But at the macro level, for the amount of investment, I would want to see more output."

Forty-one private firms, plus CPS -- which won special permission by the feds to tutor -- worked in 324 schools. CPS analyzed data from about 24 firms, mostly the larger ones that tutored at least 30 hours. The small-group tutoring mostly ranged from 30 to 80 hours.

The results varied from firm to firm. Several significantly outperformed the average and many fell far behind. Among the firms, CPS' program ranked in the middle in reading and near the top for math. . . .

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