Inside the Law

Inside the Law

Legal issues at national, state and local levels

Tutoring Services See Business Boom

While districts are struggling to meet what many say are unfunded mandates of NCLB, one industry is booming under the landmark education act. Tutoring services across the nation are growing rapidly as they tap into a potential $2 billion market of Title 1 funding.

Under the provisions of NCLB, schools that fail to reach state achievement goals two years in a row are required to offer free tutoring to students from low-income families or a transfer to a high performing school. Up to 20 percent of Title 1 funds at these schools must be earmarked for supplemental education services, which is between $900 and $2,500 per student per year.

"The market is growing at a rate of 12-15 percent per year and we estimate its size at $4.5 billion,'' says Mark Jackson, director K-12 research at Eduventures, a Boston-based education information company.

Some tutoring services have doubled or tripled their revenues serving students who qualify. Students enrolled in New York-based Platform Learning programs grew from 1,000 students in 2003, to 15,000 last year to 50,000 in 2005, says Gene V. Wade Jr., Platform's chairman and CEO. Catapult Learning, a division of Baltimore-based Educate, Inc., reported that its enrollment in tutoring programs under NCLB grew from 5,000 in 2002-2003 to 25,000 in 2003-2004.

Some other major tutoring companies include Kaplan Educational Services, Huntington Learning Centers, Princeton Review and Newton Learning, a division of Edison Schools, Inc.

But providers are currently serving just a fraction of the amount of students eligible. Educators say only about 10 percent to 12 percent of qualified students--200,000--are actually enrolled in programs.

"If everyone who was eligible signed up, it would create a crisis,'' said Wade, of Platform Learning. There wouldn't be enough companies or organizations to provide the tutoring needed.

More students qualify for tutoring in the Los Angeles Unified School District than are currently being served on a national level, said Becki Robinson, a program specialist for the district. In L.A., 265,000 qualify for tutoring, but only 27,500 have signed up.

See "How to Pick Tutoring Companies" below.

Connecticut Governor Backs NCLB Lawsuit

Connecticut Gov. M Jodi Rell has backed the state's intent to sue the federal government over the No Child Left Behind act. Rell, a Republican, signed legislation in July authorizing the suit that would present the first challenge to the act by a state. The state's attorney general, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, is bringing the suit.

"While the governor feels fighting the act is better left in the hands of the state's congressional delegation, she fully understands the attorney general's motivation and is interested in the outcome,'' says Adam Liegeot, a spokesman for the governor.

State officials had repeatedly requested more flexibility in the law, including asking the federal department of education for a waiver of the NCLB mandate that students be tested in every grade from three through eighth. Connecticut Department of Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg says the testing would cost the state an additional $8 million.

Sternberg says she understood Rell's initial hesitancy to back the lawsuit. "After all, she is a Republican and the president believes this piece of legislation is one of his main contributions.''

But Sternberg says Rell's backing gives greater weight to the suit. "I know that she believes that the cost of the additional requirements of this law do not have any equal benefit to our youngsters,'' says Sternberg. "Around that in particular she felt it makes sense to see what happens in the courts."

AFT Campaigns to Fix No Child

Instead of suing like it's counterpart NEA, the American Federation of Teachers has launched an intense campaign aimed at fixing what it considers unfair and unworkable aspects of the No Child Left Behind act.

The campaign, "NCLB-Let's Get it Right" has identified four areas of the act union members feel need to be changed. These include the adequate yearly progress requirements, highly qualified staff provisions, sanctions relating to school improvement and service to students, and funding.

"The AFT has been in the lead on standards reform,'' says Jaime Zapata, a spokesman for the AFT. "But what our members are also seeing is the NCLB being implemented in a manner that doesn't match the reality of needs.'' Zapata says the campaign is hoping to push for changes before the act is up for reauthorization in 2007.

The AFT launched the campaign this spring with commercials focusing on changes that need to be made to the AYP requirements. These TV spots will run throughout the fall in major metropolitan cities.

The AFT recommends the federal government measure progress on what a student has achieved from the start of the school year to the end of the year, not just by relying on standardized test scores.

DOE Asks Court to Dismiss NEA Suit

The federal government is asking a U.S. District Court to dismiss a landmark case filed by the nation's largest teacher's union that seeks to force the federal DOE to pay for all the provisions in NCLB.

In a response to the suit, which was filed in April by the National Education Association, the U.S. DOE asserts the union has no standing to sue and the case lacks merit.

The NEA suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan, aims to free districts from the burden of complying with any part of NCLB that isn't paid for by federal funding.

The agency in its response contends districts that don't want to meet federal requirements shouldn't expect federal aid.

If the court doesn't dismiss the case, oral arguments will start in October.

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