Tutor Our Children is a 501(c)4 advocacy organization, started with support from providers of Federally Funded Tutoring Services that recognized that the students and families they served were not being heard in Washington. They also recognized that a diverse group of providers at the local level, from Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA’s, Unions and after school centers were not being heard. The Tutor Our Children campaign and organization were created to give voice to parents and families, disseminate information to the real stakeholders for the program, and band-together with local nonprofits and other community based partners in order to draw attention to the facts – to communicate the importance of maintaining Federally Funded Tutoring Services.
Federally Funded Tutoring Services, often referred to as Supplemental Educational Services are educational opportunities that are mandated by a federal law called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB) to be provided, outside of the regular school day, to students in low-performing schools. These services may include tutoring, remediation, and other educational interventions or additional academic support.
Under the law students from low-income families, generally those that are eligible to receive free or reduced price lunch, who attend a Title I school that fails to make progress for three years (in its second year of “school improvement status”). If there is not enough space in an approved provider’s program, the district must set up fair and equitable procedures for serving students.
Services must be provided until the end of the school year, unless the amount of funds or intensity of services limits the availability of services to a shorter period of time.
Providers of Federally Funded Tutoring Services are approved by states, which must develop a list of potential providers based on objective criteria, including a provider’s demonstrated record of effectiveness in increasing student achievement. States should develop their approved vendor list in conjunction with districts, parents, teachers, and other interested members of the public. Providers include both non-profit and for-profit organizations, local community programs, colleges and universities, national organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club or the Urban League, faith-based groups, private schools, charter schools and the public schools and districts themselves.
The district must notify parents annually if their child is eligible for Federally Funded Tutoring Services. The notification must be understandable and, where practical, in the parent’s native language. The notice must:
- Provide a list of approved providers within the district or reasonably available in neighboring districts;
- Provide a brief description of the services, qualifications, and demonstrated effectiveness of such providers; and
- Describe the procedures and timelines that parents must follow to select a provider.
- When families ask for help, school district representatives must help them choose the provider that is best for them. Once a family chooses a provider, the district enters into a contract with the provider. The district is responsible for paying the provider for tutoring services. If more eligible families demand services than funds can support, districts must give priority to the lowest-achieving students.
By any standard, implementation of Federally Funded Tutoring Services is distressing. It is estimated that some 1.4 million children were eligible to receive these services during the last school year. Of these, only 233,000, or 17% took advantage of the opportunity for free tutoring.
Research shows that academically based programs offered outside the school day can help students improve their achievement as well as work habits. Outside of school tutoring helps students to increase achievement, by providing extra time in support of learning that takes place during the regular school day. Federally Funded Tutoring Services are targeted to high-need, low-income students because at-risk students often have the most to gain from support outside the classroom. Not all students are able to learn well in class; our tutors can help students through creative approaches including technology and handheld computers. For many families, tutoring also provides students a safe environment during prime risk hours after school.
The federal law authorizes those who oversee the nation’s public schools at the local level to administer Federally Funded Tutoring Services. Oftentimes, these school leaders want to keep as much money as possible available for internal use by their schools. They see this as a competitive program that takes money away from the schools. As a result, consciously or not, these administrators have created processes and procedures that undermine the opportunity for kids to get the extra outside help that the law says they should receive. It is not that they necessarily violate the law; they simply choose not to abide by it. Federally Funded Tutoring Services work for children and families, and we need to ensure they are taking advantage of the many successful programs available across the country.