FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 25, 2012
SCHUMER: RECENT REPORT SHOWS THAT FED-FUNDED TUTORING PROGRAMS ARE FAILING NY’S STUDENTS – URGES DEPT OF ED TO APPROVE WAIVER ALLOWING MORE FLEXIBILITY FOR LOCAL DISTRICTS, LIKE ROCHESTER, TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS TO TUTORING PROGRAMS
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the federal Department of Education to approve New York’s request for greater flexibility to control how federal funding is used by school districts for tutoring and supplemental education services, in order to ensure the most effective and achievement-focused use of those resources. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has applied for a waiver from specific regulations within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that would allow local districts, like those in Rochester and across the state, to opt out of the strict federal requirements related to activities offered under the Supplemental Educational Services (SES) and the Twenty-First Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) programs.
As a result of insufficient accountability and efficiency in the current system for supplemental education activities that was highlighted by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Schumer is pushing the Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan to approve the state’s application for the waiver, which would provide New York school districts more flexibility in their use of SES and 21st CCLC funding. If approved, Rochester and other school districts could direct such resources to providers based on demonstrated effectiveness to best meet student needs, improve educational outcomes, and close achievement gaps, which are best identified at the local level.
“School districts across New York, including Rochester, are hamstrung by overly strict federal guidelines on how to implement the best tutoring and supplemental programs for their students. The bottom line is local education leaders need more flexibility to craft programs that best fit the needs of local students,” said Schumer. “That’s why I’m urging the Department of Education to allow local districts, like the Rochester City School District, to direct federal resources to out-of-school activities as they best see fit based on the efficiency and quality of those services. Moreover, I’m pushing to give districts the flexibility to use this funding to expand in-school learning so more students can get the extra learning time they need and aren’t tempted to skip out of after-school tutoring sessions. In past years, Rochester has been forced to spend millions in federal tutoring funds but was powerless to make sure they were getting the best bang for their buck. Approval of New York’s waiver will provide more control to local districts regarding which tutoring and other school programs deserve this federal funding, and will enhance services to best meet local students’ needs and improve student’s academic outcomes.”
Schumer is pushing for local districts in New York, like Rochester, to be permitted the freedom to direct federal resources from SES and 21st CCLC programs in ways best fit for their students. Specifically, a waiver from the federal Department of Education would allow local districts to certify after-school and tutoring programs based on demonstrated effectiveness and what that locality believes best for improving academic performance in that districts’ students. Schumer noted that such a waiver would help improve tutoring and other expanded educational activities in New York. For example, in the Rochester City School District, currently only 20% of students that need and qualify for tutoring enroll in an eligible program, and of those students many do not benefit from their provider’s curriculum which are not producing effective educational outcomes and improvements. Schumer urged Secretary Arne Duncan to approve New York State Education Department’s waiver application, which would help alleviate such problems by better directing federal funding towards improved academic activities, such as in-school extended learning activities. Schumer argued that localities need the flexibility to develop achievement-based tutoring and activities that are best for its students.
A copy of Schumer’s letter appears below:
Dear Secretary Duncan,
I write in support of the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) waiver application to certain provisions within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Specifically, I ask that as you review this request you provide particular consideration to the provisions sought by NYSED to provide greater flexibility to the activities offered under the Supplemental Educational Services (SES) and the Twenty-First Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program. Allowing the state and local education agencies greater flexibility to control how federal SES and 21st CCLC funding is used will be a prudent first step to provide local districts with the ability to best direct these resources to activities that are effective and improve student achievement.
The current system has led to a situation where there is restricted opportunities as well as insufficient accountability and oversight of how federal funding for expanded learning time and supplemental services is spent. In many states there are some current SES and 21st CCLC service providers that do not have demonstrated track records of success or adequate evaluation measures in place. Moreover, in the current system, local school districts are limited in their ability to reject providers who are failing to improve student performance or add to their overall development..
The flexibility sought in this waiver will provide the state and local districts with the ability to direct these resources to providers based on demonstrated effectiveness to best meet student needs, improve educational outcomes for all students and close achievement gaps. It will permit districts to enact further localized reforms such as requiring tutoring companies to make presentations or provide periodic data to validate their effectiveness, develop mechanisms for parental input on providers, align tutoring curriculum to new improved common education standards, and maximize the use of funding so that a greater number of eligible students who want supplemental services can be accommodated.
This will also allow school districts to have the discretion to use these funds not just for out-of-school activities, but to create their own extended learning time programs. For example in the Rochester City School District in New York currently, just 20 percent of the students who qualify for tutoring enroll in the program and of those 20 percent, many do not participate in enough hours of tutoring to effectively improve their educational outcomes. Under the proposed waiver, districts like Rochester can better direct this funding to new in-school extended learning activities to better capture opportunities for students to receive this extended tutoring while they are in-school.
As our country’s educational performance rankings drop in comparison with other nations, it’s clear that we need innovative new ways to strengthen our schools and provide more hours of learning to supplement the education our students currently receive. This proposal seeks to implement these types of innovations and I ask that you give it full and fair consideration.
Charles E. Schumer