By Logan Contreras, Greg Srolestar, and Chen Wang
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The 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as No Child Left Behind, established a tutoring program entitled Supplemental Education Services (SES) for low-income students at poorly-performing schools. The federally-funded program provides eligible students with vouchers to spend at the tutoring provider of their choice. As an added accountability measure, poorly-performing districts like the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are disallowed from directly providing federally-funded tutoring. Instead, LAUSD students choose from a selection of approved private tutoring providers with the costs reimbursed by federal funds. In recent years, evaluations of SES tutoring both in LAUSD and elsewhere have found the current private SES tutoring system minimally effective at improving student achievement.
In 2005, the U.S. Department of Education initiated a pilot program that permits poorly-performing districts like LAUSD to serve as SES providers. A recent expansion of this federal program provides a window of opportunity for LAUSD to enter the SES tutoring market. LAUSD asked us to assist in designing a district-provided tutoring program to compete with private providers in the SES market.
In completing the program design, we relied on four sources of information and data: analysis of relevant scholarly research, face-to-face interviews with field experts, phone interviews with private SES providers, and quantitative data sets either provided by LAUSD or publically available. We utilized these diverse sources of information and data to conduct the following tasks: (1) perform a landscape analysis of current SES tutoring system in LAUSD; (2) examine key dimensions of tutoring program design across several criteria: effectiveness at improving student learning, parent preferences, cost, legality and political stakes; (3) propose policy recommendations on each dimension of tutoring program: student served, course subject, learning configuration, instructor training/qualifications, dosage, and learning location; and (4) address some further implementation considerations of this tutoring program.
Based on our analysis, we provided several recommendations for a LAUSD SES tutoring program:
Student served: Given the difficulties in starting a quality, large-scale tutoring program, LAUSD should initially focus on one group of students. We recommend beginning with elementary students primarily because elementary enrollment is much higher.
Course subject: LAUSD should focus on both math and ELA instruction and not science instruction. Science enrollment in the elementary grades is negligible and both math and ELA tutoring can significantly benefit LAUSD students.
Learning configuration: We tentatively recommend one-to-one tutoring for ELA and small-group tutoring for mathematics. We prefer small groups of two or three students.
Instructor training/qualifications: LAUSD should utilize college students or teachers’ for one-to-one tutoring, and teachers’ aides or certified teachers for small-group instruction.
Dosage: We suggest that sessions last between ½ and one hour, meet 2-3 times per week, and last between 10 and 35 weeks. High frequency is a greater priority for ELA instruction.
Location: We recommend that LAUSD offer on-site tutoring services at each school that serves students who enroll in the district program.