U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development

Close watchers of NCLB's supplemental educational services (SES) program may be interested in perusing this 63-page report based on nine case studies of local SES programs operating in six states during the 2003-2004 school year. (None is named. These are pseudonymous case studies.) The two-page executive summary does a pretty good job of hitting the most interesting findings. Here are a few:

   -   The typical "tutoring" session involved small groups of 5-10 kids at a time.

   -   The average per pupil expenditure was $1,408.

   -   Attendance was, to put it gently, uneven, particularly in the middle 

       and high schools.

   -   In 8 of the districts, the number of SES providers ranged from 5 to 14; in

       one (a large urban district) there were 27. Few of the providers were faith-

       based and few operated on-line.

   -   In 2 of the three cases where the district itself was an SES provider, it

       enrolled the "lion's share" (49 and 76 percent) of all participants.

   -   Private providers generally insisted on a minimum enrollment before

       working in a district - and small and rural communities were poorly served

       by private providers.

Digging deeper into the report, more interesting findings emerge - these involving participation rates. At first glance, the numbers look gloomy; in seven of the nine districts, fewer than 15 percent of eligible students received services. That sounds terrible, right? But those numbers are misleading indicators of the program's success. Why? Two of those seven districts "maxed out" the federal dollars allocated for tutoring (an amount equal to 20 percent of their federal Title I allocation), and another came reasonably close. (These were districts with lots of eligible students; if Congress wants more such pupils actually to receive services, it should bump the 20 percent set-aside higher.) So in roughly half of the districts studied, the school system either served as many kids as it could afford to, or served a high percentage of eligible students. For a program in its second year of operation, beset by myriad challenges and internal design problems, these results are encouraging. See for yourself here.

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