I operate one of the tutoring companies that offers services to children through the NCLB act (please see my website at www.WenatcheeTutoring.com for further information). There are many reasons I hope SES will continue, but with some significant adjustments that would both benefit students and satisfy taxpayers funding the program, which I will outline below.
I want to share the impact we have been able to have on low-income students from these under-performing schools. Last year, ALL of our students made measurable gains during the limited hours they had with us. Some, in as few as 10-12 hours of reading instruction, gained 2-3 YEARS in reading level. That is, quite frankly, remarkable, and I attribute much of that success to our small or individual classes and certified teachers, coupled with our specialized teaching method. Moreover, the students we serve seem to be those who have never had individualized attention, and once they do, they THRIVE. (If it would be helpful, I can be contacted via Facebook or on my website and I happy to provide data on our actual student results from last year.)
I see two major issues with the SES program. Of greatest concern is the selection process of tutoring agencies for which the inclusion criteria are too broad. Some agencies have repeatedly produced poor results and yet are allowed back in, year after year. These are companies who exploit the program, pairing under-trained "tutors" with far too many students. There seems to be no real system in place for districts to evaluate providers' performance and determine the effectiveness of their services. I strongly suggest that law-makers revise the SES program to allow districts to assist in the selection of tutoring agencies, based on their actual performance, student gain, and parent/school reports. There must be a way for the good tutoring agencies to be distinguished from those that simply roll into town, bombard everyone with fancy incentives ("Enroll with us and you get an iPod"), and then employ sub-par strategies. SES should be affiliated with companies hiring certified teachers who are qualified to instruct students in reading and math. As it is, some tutoring companies employ high-school students to provide instruction! That is inappropriate for a federally-funded program. No one less-qualified than a certified classroom teacher should be administering tutoring services to students struggling with foundational skills like reading and math.
Finally, I would suggest that policy-makers entertain the idea of having SES not be restricted to after-school hours, but that QUALIFIED agencies be let into schools to work with students during the day. Many of them are not making any progress at all in their regular classes, and if a student who is failing a pull-out reading class could be instead paired with a proven tutor, we would see remarkable progress without the necessity for students to elongate their already exhausting day. Parents wouldn't have to rearrange schedules, and classroom teachers could have first-hand knowledge of the extra tutoring, letting teachers and tutors work together.