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Doing Your Homework:
NCLB, School Choice and Tutoring

by Suzanne Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

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If you do your homework and plan ahead, you can take advantage of opportunities in No Child Left Behind when they arise.

Beginning in the fall of 2002, your district must report the scores of statewide testing to parents. This is the district or school's report card.

Your district will report scores for each school as a whole. The scores will also be broken out into four subgroups: children with disabilities, limited English proficiency, racial minorities and children from low-income families.

Most states and school districts routinely excused kids with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities from state and local testing - until now. Because schools did not test all students, their scores were not accurate. Who was tested in the past?

The 95 Percent Rule

Under No Child Left Behind, schools must test at least 95 percent of students. If a school does not test at least 95 percent of students, the school will fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

We should expect school and school district scores to drop. Most Title I schools will fall into the "Needs Improvement" or "Corrective Action" categories, at least for a while.

Lawmakers anticipated this when they wrote No Child Left Behind. The AYP calculation already takes into account that there may be fluctuations in annual scores. Additional funding is automatically available to help schools in trouble get back on track.

AYP and School Report Cards

NCLB requires that test results be released before the school year begins. The law also requires that school districts notify parents about their public school choice and tutoring options.

What do you need to know and do now, so you are prepared when this situation arises in your school district?

For Parents

Transfers to Better Schools

When a Title I school falls into the "needs improvement" category for two consecutive years, the school must offer public school choice to all children who attend the school.

Parents need to learn about public school choice. Think about the schools you want your children to transfer to when school choice is offered. If you want your child to transfer to a non-failing school, you should apply as soon as the opportunity is offered.

Assume your school district is required to provide public school choice. The district does not have any non-failing schools and has not made a cooperative agreement with another district. The district may offer supplemental educational services instead.

Supplemental Services: Tutoring

Supplemental services include tutoring, after-school programs, and summer school. Children will receive these services at no cost. Supplemental services are available to children from low-income families who attend a Title I school that has not met its AYP goal for three consecutive years.

Parents need to know what supplemental educational services their child is entitled to and where they can get this instruction before it becomes available.

Finding a Good Provider

You may choose a tutor, or other service provider, from a state approved list. The state must ensure that all providers on the list have a history of success.

Parents should investigate to find good tutors in their area and make sure these people are on the state-approved list when supplemental educational services are offered.

You will probably have to educate the tutor about the No Child Left Behind Act and how to get onto the state-approved list. The application process should be outlined in your state department of education website.

Urge the tutor not to delay in applying. Some states only update their provider list twice a year. Although the tutor meets the requirements, the person may not be placed on the list for several months. Good tutors are often busy. Make a copy of the application and send it to him/her.

Parents who do not do their homework will waste valuable time.

Did the School Make Adequate Yearly Progress?

Test scores should be released by August. Many states, school districts and schools have not reported this information in a timely manner, as required by law.

Find out for yourself when the scores will be released.

Do not expect the school to notify you in a timely manner that your child is eligible for public school choice or supplemental services.

Familiarize yourself with your state department of education website so you can find information easily.

Read your state No Child Left Behind plan.

Be proactive. Make this situation work for your child and family.

If you do not prepare, you will have fewer options. You are likely to find that better-prepared parents took the best schools and tutors for their children.

School leaders

School board members and superintendents need to think ahead too.

School board members and superintendents may have to negotiate teaching and transportation contracts so they have flexibility to address sudden changes in school populations, record keeping, and transportation needs.

School board members should work to avoid class action civil rights lawsuits by ensuring that their district adheres to the federal notification requirements, and provides the required services on time.

Transportation companies need to investigate leasing options ahead of time so they can move quickly to provide additional services to school districts that require last minute changes in bussing needs.

School employees

School employees should read about the training opportunities offered in No Child Left Behind. There may be unexpected advancement opportunities for those prepared to move to another job within the school district.
Doing Your Homework

People tend to hope the inevitable will not happen. We are better off if we prepare for what is likely to happen.

If you do your homework, you can take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

Authors Note

If you plan to take advantage of the opportunities in NCLB, you need to do more than than read this article. You need to work at it.

Print this article. Download and study the publications below. Do your homework.

When you take these steps, you are more likely to have a successful outcome.

More articles by Sue:

A Parent's Guide to No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind: What Teachers, Principals & School Administrators Need to Know

10 Strategies to Fight Mandatory Retention & Other Damaging Policies

Exit Exams Can Be Optional - If You Plan Ahead

High Stakes! Can the School Use a Single Test to Retain My Child?

Links: No Child Left Behind Resources

State Education Indicators includes performance of subgroups on state testing. Click State Profiles on left side of screen.

Performance of subgroups on state testing, by state (website under construction)

States with Approved No Child Left Behind Assessments

Compliance Status and State Plans, Education Commission of the States

Approved State Accountability Plans

Public School Choice: Draft Non-Regulatory Guidance by U.S. Department of Education.

Supplemental Educational Services, Non-Regulatory Guidance, by U.S. Department of Education.

Parent's Guide to Supplemental Services (2 page brochure) by U.S. Department of Education

Improving Teacher Quality State Grants, Title II, Part A: Draft Non-Regulatory Guidance, by U.S. Department of Education

Notification and Reporting Requirements for Local School Boards, published by National School Boards Association.

Links to all State Departments of Education.


Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Merrimack, New Hampshire, is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that is published by Harbor House Law Press.

In Doing Your Homework, she writes about reading, research based instruction, No Child Left Behind, and creative strategies for using federal education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools. Her articles have been reprinted by SchwabLearning.org, EducationNews.org, Bridges4Kids.org, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys. Sue Whitney's bio.

Sue has served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC) and has been a volunteer educational surrogate parent. She currently works with families as a special education advocate.


Copyright © 2002-2014 by Suzanne Whitney.

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