Private Instructional Services

Purpose:

To offer recommendations aimed at strengthening the screening, monitoring and outcomes of private instructional service providers.

Issue:

Proponents of privatization of educational services believe a private organization or business is sometimes better equipped to improve teaching and learning, and is most always more cost effective. The trend to privatize instructional services has occurred in traditional classrooms as well as in after-school, alternative, and tutoring programs. Under No Child Left Behind, Title I schools that miss Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for three or more years are required to offer free SES to their students. Providers of supplemental educational services (SES) can be non-profit or for profit organizations. Schools must continue to offer SES to their students until the school shows adequate yearly progress for two years in a row. The implementation of the SES provision of NCLB has revealed several problems that jeopardize its intended goal of helping low-achieving students. These problems have been documented in recent studies by the Center for Education Policy, the U.S. Department of Education, and the General Accountability Office, to name just a few.

Problem of availability and participation: According to the GAO, some states have difficulty attracting providers to serve certain areas and students, such as rural districts and students with disabilities. A 2008 report by the U.S. Department of education reveals that only 17% of the 1.8 million total students eligible for SES participated in the program during 2003-2004 school year. A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of education reports that the rate of participation has remained flat at 17% in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, even though the number of eligible students has increased dramatically.

Problem of coordination and communication with schools: The U.S. Dept of Education study found that 26% of SES providers never reported on individual students to teachers, while 70% of providers reported having communicated with classroom teachers only a few times per year.

Problem of quality control: According to a study by the Center for Education Policy, 38 states are unable to monitor “to a great extent” the quality and effectiveness of SES providers; only 10 states reported being able to do so. The greatest capacity challenges for states in meeting this federal SES monitoring requirement are insufficient numbers of staff and inadequate federal funding.

Problem of effectiveness: Expenditures for Title I supplemental educational services doubled between 2003–04 and 2005–06 from $192 million to $375 million. However, according to the GAO, many states continue to struggle with how to evaluate whether SES providers are improving student achievement. While a few states have completed evaluations, none provides a conclusive assessment of SES providers’ effect on student academic achievement.

These problems represent a set of challenges not only for the students who need SES, but also for the schools and districts affected by them.

NASSP Guiding Principles:

  • Private service providers must be used primarily to address student learning as opposed to financial profit.
  • Decisions about how schools are structured and run must remain in the hands of communities, school boards, principals and other school staff. In effect, there must always be public accountability.
  • Organizations outside of the school and school district that provide services for pay must have a proven record of accomplishment.
  • NASSP supports public school choice
  • NASSP does not support the transfer of public funding from public schools to private service providers

Recommendations for policymakers:

  • Involve principals, in consultation with teachers, parents, and the community, in the design and evaluation of privatization agreements.
  • Issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) designed to attract the widest variety of applicants when seeking to provide privatization services.
  • Conduct annual reviews of privatization agreements that are based on student achievement as measured by the achievement instruments in use by the school district.
  • Ensure that all privatization agreements follow the same local, state, and federal laws and regulations required of other public schools, especially with regard to certification and professional development of school staff, diversity of student population, special services to students, and funding.
  • Monitor the quality and effectiveness of the tutoring services offered by SES providers.
  • Hold private SES providers accountable for student progress.

Resources

United States Department of Education. (2009). State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, Volume VII—Title I School Choice and Supplemental Educational Services: Final Report. Washington, DC.

Center on Education Policy. (2007). State Implementation of Supplemental Educational Services under the No Child Left Behind Act. Washington, DC.

United States Government Accountability Office. (2007). No Child Left Behind. Education Actions May Help Improve Implementation and Evaluation of Supplemental Educational Services. Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives.

United States Department of Education. (2009). “Choices for Parents: Supplemental Educational Services”.

————————

Adopted May 5, 2001
Revised July 9, 2009