No one should envy school district leaders right now. Many are in the process of sending letters to parents telling them their child’s school is failing to meet adequate yearly progress. Plus, they’ve lost control over a total of nearly $40 million in Title I funds used to help poor students improve reading and math skills.
Things didn’t have to turn out this way. Seattle Times’ reporter John Higgins provides some important context on the “failing” label in this Sunday news report.
Also in Sunday’s newspaper, the editorial board lamented the Legislature’s failure to be more pragmatic last session. The refusal of many legislators on both sides of the aisle to make a simple change with regard to teacher evaluations — a change already adopted in Seattle Public Schools and many other state school districts — caused the entire state to be stripped of a key waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act. Washington is the only state in the country to lose its waiver.
Here is an excerpt from the Sunday editorial:
In previous years, Highline Public Schools Superintendent Susan Enfield said about $1 million in Title I funds helped the district add full-day kindergarten classes. Now, that money must be set aside to transport children to schools of their choice or to pay third-party tutors such as Kumon Learning Centers. The district could apply to be a provider, but there is no certainty. Only if parents don’t seek private tutoring for their children might the district be able to get the money later. Administrators say it’s hard to plan ahead without steady funding.
The right-leaning Washington Policy Center’s Liv Finne is extra critical, in a center blog post, of the confusing nature of letters that have been sent out so far to parents.
As students get ready to head back to school next week, no one knows yet exactly how many low-income parents might take advantage of the opportunities now before them to change schools or give their kids private tutoring.
What is clear is that losing flexibility in spending has consequences.
- Some of the Title I funding in question is supposed to pay to transport kids to schools that are meeting federal standards. Since most schools are considered “failing,” parents don’t have much choice but to keep their kids where they are. Therefore, most of the set-aside funds will likely be spent on tutoring.
- If administrators do their job right and notify low-income parents of their right to get their children free “supplemental education,” then the private tutoring companies should see an upswing in business. It will be interesting to compare the cost and return on investment of sending a child to a Sylvan Learning Center or Kumon versus the cost of providing students with in-school programs such as after-school tutoring, extended kindergarten and professional development for teachers.
- Highline School District spokeswoman Catherine Carbone Rogers says schools could try to qualify as tutoring providers, but the choice is up to parents. If they go with the private sector, the district cannot coordinate curriculum or hold those out-of-school programs accountable.