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Highlights

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLBA) requires districts with schools that have not met state performance goals for 3 consecutive years to offer their low-income students supplemental educational services (SES), such as tutoring, if these schools receive Title I funds. SES are provided outside of the regular school day by a state-approved provider, with responsibility for implementation shared by states and districts. GAO examined (1) how SES participation changed between school years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005; (2) how SES providers are working with districts to deliver SES; (3) how states are monitoring and evaluating SES; and (4) how the Department of Education (Education) monitors and supports state implementation of SES. To collect data on SES, GAO surveyed all states and a nationally representative sample of districts with schools required to offer SES. We also visited 4 school districts, interviewed 22 SES providers, reviewed SES-related research, and interviewed Education staff.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education 1. To help states and districts implement SES more effectively, the Secretary of Education should use the department's Web site and the Center on Innovation and Improvement, as well as other means of communication, to provide federal guidance on SES parental notification letters that is clear and has been coordinated internally between OII and OESE to provide additional assistance to states and districts to help them comply with federal requirements and ensure that letters are easy for parents to understand. Education should consider providing several samples of actual district notification letters that meet these criteria.
Closed - Implemented
Education has taken a variety of steps to help states and districts improve supplemental educational services (SES) parental notification letters. For example, between November 2006 and March 2007, Education staff conducted an outreach tour during which they met with state and district officials, providers, and parents in 14 large school districts around the country to discuss issues including parental outreach and notification related to SES. During June 2007, officials convened a national meeting to share the findings from the tour, including information on effective SES parental notification letters and other outreach practices, with state and district SES coordinators. The department also published a handbook in September 2007 that summarizes findings from the tour, including effective strategies for informing parents about SES. In addition to the tour, Education directed the Center on Innovation and Improvement to focus on providing assistance related to parental outreach during school year 2006-2007. Consequently, the Center launched a project focused on SES parental outreach technical assistance and training for schools, districts, and community partners nationwide. The Center also now provides examples of outreach materials, such as documents that states and districts have used to notify parents of services, through its Web site.
Department of Education 2. To help states and districts implement SES more effectively, the Secretary of Education should use the department's Web site and the Center on Innovation and Improvement, as well as other means of communication, to collect and disseminate information on promising practices used by states to attract more providers for certain areas and groups and promising practices used by districts to improve parental notification of SES services and providers' ability to serve specific groups of students and to encourage student attendance.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Education has taken several steps to collect and disseminate promising approaches to attracting supplemental educational services (SES) providers that are able to serve specific student groups and areas, notifying parents of services, and encouraging student attendance. For example, Education cosponsored a meeting for all state SES directors in October 2006 during which participants discussed their efforts to attract more providers, including those that are able to serve rural communities, students with disabilities, and English language learners. In addition, between November 2006 and March 2007, Education staff conducted an outreach tour focused on school choice and SES during which they met with state and district officials, providers, and parents in 14 large school districts around the country. During these meetings, participants discussed strategies for parental outreach and notification, serving special student populations, and encouraging SES attendance. Education disseminated the findings from the outreach tour during a national meeting of state and district SES coordinators in June 2007 and by publishing a handbook of SES implementation strategies in September 2007. In addition to these activities, Education also directed the Center on Innovation and Improvement to focus on providing assistance related to parental outreach during school year 2006-2007. Consequently, the Center has directly provided technical assistance on SES parental outreach to states that requested it. The Center also provides examples of related materials, such as documents and strategies that states and districts have used to notify parents of services, on its website.
Department of Education 3. To help states and districts implement SES more effectively, the Secretary of Education should use the department's Web site and the Center on Innovation and Improvement, as well as other means of communication, to provide examples of how districts can involve schools and school officials to facilitate local coordination with providers.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Education has taken several steps to disseminate information on how districts can facilitate local coordination with supplemental educational services (SES)providers by involving schools. In October 2006, Education held a state SES directors' meeting during which one of the sessions explored successful partnerships between districts, schools, and providers. This session built on information regarding school involvement in SES that is provided in the department's non-regulatory SES guidance. In addition, between November 2006 and March 2007, Education staff conducted an outreach tour focused on school choice and SES during which they met with state and district officials, providers, and parents in 14 large school districts around the country to discuss SES implementation issues, including local coordination. In June 2007, officials convened a national meeting to share the findings from the tour, including involving schools in local SES management and coordination, with state and district SES coordinators. The department also published a handbook in September 2007 that summarizes findings from the tour, including strategies for facilitating coordination between districts, schools, and SES providers.
Department of Education 4. To improve states' and districts' ability to make the most of funding for SES and provide services to the maximum number of students, the Secretary of Education should consider expanding the 2005-2006 pilot that allowed two districts in need of improvement to enter into flexibility agreements to serve as SES providers if evaluation results show that these districts can provide quality SES services.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Education is currently considering expanding the SES pilot that allows districts in need of improvement to apply to become SES providers. On July 26, 2006, the Department issued a press release in which the Deputy Secretary announced the expansion of this pilot to include the Memphis City Schools and Anchorage School District for the 2006-2007 school year. The press release also confirmed that the two school districts granted flexibility under this pilot in the 2005-2006 school year--Chicago Public Schools and Boston Public Schools--would continue to be included in the pilot for the 2006-2007 school year.
Department of Education 5. To improve states' and districts' ability to make the most of funding for SES and provide services to the maximum number of students, the Secretary of Education should clarify what states can do through the provider approval process to set parameters around program design and costs. For example, Education could issue guidance to states that clarifies their authority to set parameters on issues such as minimum hours of SES per student, minimum tutor qualifications, and cost ranges. In addition, Education could suggest to states that they coordinate these discussions with districts to address their concerns about program design and costs.
Closed - Implemented
The Department added language to the January 2009 version of the SES Non-Regulatory Guidance, which clarified what states can do through the provider approval process to set parameters around program design and costs. Specifically, the 2009 Guidance includes new language that (1) indicates states can place a cap on rates that providers charge for SES and (2) instructs each state to "inform prospective providers about the program parameters (e.g., provider's cost, pupil/tutor ratio) it will allow." Further, in two places, the Department added new language to the Guidance specifying that districts should convey any concerns they have about providers' program designs to states.
Department of Education 6. To improve federal and state monitoring of SES, the Secretary of Education should require states to report information necessary to determine the amount of funds spent by districts to provide SES and the percentage of their Title I allocations that this amount represents. Because almost all states reported that they are planning to monitor district SES expenditures, Education could require the states to submit these data through the annual NCLBA Consolidated State Performance Reports.
Closed - Implemented
Education officials reported that beginning with the 2006-2007 school year, all states are required to submit information to the department through the EDEN/EDFacts system on the amount of funds spent by districts to provide supplemental educational services (SES). As of August 2008, the department is reviewing states' plans to become fully compliant with the new EDEN/EdFacts system. According to those plans, the majority of states will be submitting the SES expenditure data for school year 2007-2008.
Department of Education 7. To improve federal and state monitoring of SES, the Secretary of Education should provide states with technical assistance and guidance on how to evaluate the effect of SES on student academic achievement. For example, Education might require the Center on Innovation and Improvement to focus its SES assistance on providing states with suggested evaluation methods, measures to assess the impact of SES on achievement, and criteria for using this information to monitor and withdraw state approval from providers. Further, lessons learned and promising practices on evaluation could also be shared with states on the Center on Innovation and Improvement's Web site or during national or regional meetings, trainings, or conferences.
Closed - Implemented
Education directed the Center on Innovation and Improvement to focus on providing technical assistance to states in the area of supplemental educational services (SES) evaluation during school year 2006-2007. To that end, the Center issued an updated version of the guidebook on SES evaluation in November 2006 and provided SES evaluation technical assistance conferences to 16 states that requested such assistance in spring 2007. The technical assistance materials used for those conferences are also available on the Center's website. In addition, Education's April 2008 proposed regulations for Title I require states to consider specific types of evidence when evaluating SES providers and determining whether to renew or remove each provider on the state approved list.

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