United States Government Accountability Office
August 2006

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) enjoys a reputation for fairness and integrity and its new report on No Child Left Behind's free-tutoring provision is of that ilk. GAO analysts find plenty of fault with all the major players: the U.S. Department of Education, which could do more to disseminate promising tutoring practices; the states, which have been negligent in their monitoring and evaluation duties; the districts, which often act as if they want to keep free tutoring a state secret; and, yes, the tutoring providers, who could do more to communicate with teachers and parents. (Of course, the one player not targeted was the GAO's boss, Congress itself, which could be faulted for the program's clumsy legislative language and blurry lines of responsibility.) Still, silver linings exist: free tutoring is gaining traction. Enrollment almost quadrupled from 116,626 students in 2002-2003 to 430,044 in 2004-2005. Yet that growth is uneven. While 16 percent of districts maxed out their tutoring money, on average districts spent just 5 percent of their Title I funds for this purpose (the law provides for spending up to 20 percent). Faulty parental notification is surely part of the problem. More than half of all districts informed parents about supplemental services (and, one must surmise, their school transfer options, too) after the start of the school year. Another good development: accountability is improving. Nearly three-fourths of states have plans in place to begin monitoring by year's end whether tutored students are actually learning more (currently, just a handful does). The program's design still has plenty of problems--especially allowing districts to play the central role in a reform that means less power and money for them--but improvements in implementation are surely welcome. You can find the report, required reading for anyone involved in supplemental services, here.

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