SES helps kids trapped in failing schools, not school fix

The MN Daily Planet makes a careening series of attacks on Supplemental Educational Services (SES).  The primary criticism is that tutoring some of the low income students didn’t fix the schools.  SES was not designed primarily as a school improvement strategy; it is an effort to quickly and directly counter failing school effects on low income students during a long term improvement effort.  A string of three bad teacher has disastrous consequences on low income kids.  Quality tutoring has the potential to mitigate the effects of a bad school in real time.  This is critical given the fact that most states have not intervened in failing schools.  There are thousands of schools that have been in the ‘needs improvement’ category for more than five years with no intervention.  At least low income students in the schools have the option of getting quality tutoring–something that evaluation studies show that parents appreciate.
If you wade through a monstrous data set on the state web site  you’ll find more than 1,000 schools in MN failed to meet AYP and only 244 are eligible for SES.  Only 19 schools have been restructured (and it looks like they’re still on the ‘needs improvement’ list).  If communities need to wait five years for aggressive reform in failing schools, the least we can do is attempt to directly support the academic success of students trapped in failing schools.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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