Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Do Supplemental Educational Services Increase Opportunities for Minority Students? the Question of the Impact of Supplemental Educational Services on Student Achievement Remains to Be Answered. in the Meantime, Ms. Sunderman Points out, This Unproven NCLB Strategy Is Diverting Districts' Title I Funds Away from Other Efforts That Might Be More Effective

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Do Supplemental Educational Services Increase Opportunities for Minority Students? the Question of the Impact of Supplemental Educational Services on Student Achievement Remains to Be Answered. in the Meantime, Ms. Sunderman Points out, This Unproven NCLB Strategy Is Diverting Districts' Title I Funds Away from Other Efforts That Might Be More Effective

Article excerpt

WHEN CONGRESS included a provision in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act that required schools to offer supplemental educational services as a remedy for poor performance, it was a political compromise between supporters and opponents of vouchers. There was no precedent in federal law for this provision and no body of research that provided clear and consistent evidence that supplemental educational services improve learning outcomes for low-performing--particularly low-income or minority--students. Yet the supplemental educational services provision represents a major tenet of NCLB--that competition will produce better educational opportunities for disadvantaged students than the public schools provide. According to federal policy makers, "The ... supplemental educational services requirements of the law not only help to enhance student achievement but also provide an incentive for low-performing schools to improve." (1) Underlying supplemental services is the assumption that academic instruction provided outside the regular school day by public and private organizations will be able to do what schools cannot--raise the achievement of students in consistently poorly performing schools.

NCLB included two required sanctions for schools identified as "in need of improvement," that is, those schools that did not meet the state's adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals. The first was that schools must offer their students the option to transfer out of low- performing schools. The second was that parents could purchase supplemental services with money set aside from the district's Title I budget for this purpose. NCLB defines supplemental educational services as "additional academic instruction designed to increase the academic achievement of students in low-performing schools" and indicates that they "must be high quality, research-based, and specifically designed to increase student achievement." The federal legislation also requires that supplemental services "be provided outside the regular school day," which may include after-school and weekend programs. (2) By specifying who could offer these services, the law created a market for public and private organizations to provide tutoring services to students enrolled in public schools.

These requirements reversed the direction of earlier Title I legislation that focused on establishing schoolwide programs coordinated with the regular curriculum. The original categorical Title I program had been criticized because of curricular and instructional fragmentation in the delivery of instruction and a lack of coordination between the Title I program and the regular curriculum. (3) Recognizing the problem, federal officials began to soften requirements that program services be distinct and easily identifiable. The 1988 Hawkins-Stafford Amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)--and later the 1994 Improving America's Schools Act--gave local school districts and schools greater flexibility in deciding where and how to use Title I resources and encouraged the adoption of schoolwide programs. The federal law also lowered the poverty cutoff point required for schools to qualify for adopting a schoolwide program. While not a panacea, schoolwide programs eliminated some of the major obstacles to integrating Title I services with the school curriculum.

The earlier Title I legislation also granted increased flexibility to school professionals to address the concentration of disadvantaged students in poor neighborhoods. (4) It directed additional resources to schools serving disadvantaged students and promoted flexibility in the use of those resources to encourage instructional innovation and coordination between the Title I program and the regular curricular program. Finally, prior ESEA legislation incorporated accountability by requiring that the same standards apply to all students, including those in high-poverty Title I schools. Taken together, these approaches were intended to foster deep and comprehensive school reform that would demonstrate results. …

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