Clarifying the murky waters of SES
On Monday, the Department of Education released extensive new guidelines for states, districts, and providers of supplemental educational services, a complex, contentious and confused area of NCLB. States have complained that they were unclear on how best to implement the SES provisions of the law and needed more guidance. (Skeptics say they just want to be able to blame the feds for every decision they make in this area.) There has also been real confusion over who can provide SES and under what circumstances. And of course, there have been a few hucksters and fly-by-night operators attempting to tap into this suddenly lucrative market (see here). Education Week reports, "The new document - the first written update of guidance on supplemental services since August 2003 - outlines what states, districts, and providers should and shouldn't do to ensure tutoring is handled well. Much of the guidance has already been made public, piece by piece, in the department's responses to states or districts in specific situations." Handling tutoring well includes making sure parents are informed of their options and ensuring that states, not districts, evaluate the effectiveness of providers. Indeed, these guidelines generally serve to shift more responsibility for SES from districts to states, a much-needed reform considering how few districts have embraced this option and how many are struggling to keep all the SES money within their own coffers. But states aren't perfect either, and the new guidance includes a note that SES will be subject to the Department's new "Raising Achievement" guidelines (see here for more on this), meaning that, while these SES guidelines serve as a starting point, if states have an objection to them, they can apply for a waiver. That combination appears to make SES, along with special education assessment and highly qualified teachers, a negotiable NCLB provision. This announcement tends to lend credence to Gadfly's concerns (see here) about nickel-and-dime NCLB "reforms."
"Education dept. issues guidance on tutoring," by Catherine Gewertz, Education Week, June 14, 2005
"Education Department offers new guidance," Associated Press, June 13, 2005
"To help more families access high-quality tutoring, Department clarifies roles of states, districts and providers," U.S. Department of Education press release, June 13, 2005