Understanding Supplemental Educational Services

by Terri Duggan Schwartzbeck

What are supplemental educational services under No Child Left Behind?

Title I schools that have failed to make adequate yearly progress under NCLB for three or more years must provide low-income students with supplemental educational services. These services consist of extra academic assistance designed to boost student achievement in reading, language arts and mathematics.

Instruction is provided outside of regular school hours, such as before or after school, on weekends or during the summer, and it generally is provided by an outside entity, such as a for-profit company, non-profit group, local community program, college or university or a faith-based group. This aspect of the law is expanding the number of options, particularly after-school programs, that are available to low-income students whose families might not otherwise be able to afford them.

Schools and districts that have made adequate yearly progress are also eligible to become providers. Providers are responsible for ensuring that content is aligned with state standards and assessments.

How are these supplemental services secured?

First, states must identify and publish a list of eligible providers. The state must ensure the provider has a demonstrated record of effectiveness and that the services are of high quality, research based and designed to increase student achievement.

Districts then identify eligible schools and eligible students and must notify parents that services are available. Next, the district must identify accessible providers and make that information available to parents. Districts need to make sure this information is easy to understand (which could mean providing translation in the family’s native language). The information to parents must describe availability, the identity of approved providers and at least a brief description of the services, qualifications and demonstrated effectiveness of each provider.

The district is required to offer consistent information about each of the available service providers. Many school districts choose to do this by hosting a provider fair.

Districts then must help parents choose a provider, upon request; tell parents how to sign up for services for their child; enter into contracts with providers; ensure providers are paid; coordinate with parents, schools and providers in setting goals for students; and provide information to allow the state to monitor performance.

How are supplemental educational services funded?

School districts have the responsibility of setting aside money from state, local or federal sources. Districts must spend an amount equal to 5 percent and up to 20 percent of their Title I Part 2 allocation unless a lesser amount is needed. Notice that it says amount equal to—not of—the Title I allocation. The 20 percent amount includes school choice and choice-related transportation as well as SES.

How long does that money have to be set aside?

The law and regulations are somewhat vague, but guidance indicates that school districts must hold that 20 percent for a reasonable amount of time to allow all interested and eligible families to avail themselves of SES. Districts may set a reasonable deadline by which parents must apply.

Miscellaneous Issues and Concerns

• Safety Requirements: One commonly voiced concern districts have about SES is the lack of a federal requirement for fingerprinting and criminal background checks for all SES provider staff who will interact with children. This is up to the states, which are responsible for approving providers. However, districts can make information about background checks available to parents, and recent guidance from the federal government has stated that districts can require such checks of providers themselves as well.

• Accountability: States have the responsibility for monitoring providers and removing any from the list that do not show results. However, many districts remain concerned about accountability. While providers must show that curriculum is aligned with state standards, whether they do so is determined by the state as it makes its approved list. Districts have no influence or control over the content children are taught in services run by outside providers, yet they remain accountable for the academic performance of those children.

• Funding: Some districts face the challenge of having too many students apply for SES. In this case, they are encouraged to, first, ask parents to rank several provider choices instead of only choosing one, maximizing the possibility that a family will be matched. Second, districts will need to create their own priority list, ranking students by lowest achieving and by poverty to ensure the most needy students are first in line. This will maximize the use of set-aside funds.

On the other hand, and more commonly, not all families choose to take advantage of supplemental services. While SES is more popular than the NCLB-required school choice option, many districts find only a small percentage of eligible families apply. In that case, a school district may find itself, as one already has, forced into a contract with the community’s lone provider, which required payment for 10 children, regardless of how many signed up. In this instance, only two students did. Other districts find that when only a small percentage of students apply, the set-aside money could be going to help other students instead.

• Rural Districts: Many rural and small school districts find limited numbers of available providers. Some find only online services available, which are limited by connectivity and access to computers.

Students With Special Needs: Many districts have expressed concerns that providers will not be willing or able to serve students with disabilities or students with limited English proficiency. Many districts and schools have become providers expressly to serve this need, although some cannot continue to do so.

• Districts Serving as Providers: Many districts choose to offer SES in lieu of choice for some of their students, which is an option if the choice of school alternatives is limited. Many districts also have chosen to become providers themselves. However, some districts have run into an obstacle. After getting initial approval as providers and setting up an SES system, they find themselves declared a district in need of improvement, and under the law they become prohibited from serving as providers.

Terri Schwartzbeck is a policy analyst with AASA. E-mail: tschwartzbeck@aasa.org

Additional Resources

Terri Schwartzbeck recommends these web resources:

www.tutorsforkids.org/—a website developed by the American Institutes for Research with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education with well-organized information for families, providers, states and school districts, including basic descriptions of aspects of supplemental services under No Child Left Behind, a matrix listing the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders and state-by-state information;

www.ncpublicschools.org/nclb/choicesupp/—a list of forms and letters for districts to use in informing parents about supplemental services, developed by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction;

www.nycboe.net/Administration/NCLB/SES/default.htm—examples of fliers and information for parents regarding supplemental services from New York City organized by the New York City Board of Education;

www.mynclb.com/—The TransAct Corp. offers forms, letters and notices that can be used by districts to inform parents about supplemental services for a subscription fee.