Officials say tutoring program ineffective

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Two Clovis schools that did not meet federal standards for student performance three years in a row must provide free tutoring to students.

Cameo Elementary School and W.D. Gattis Junior High School students are eligible for the federally funded program, which is a spin-off the No Child Left Behind Act.
Public schools that did not met federal adequate yearly progress standards for three or more years are required to provide the free services.

“This program is a wonderful opportunity to get our students the extra help they need to succeed,” New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary Veronica Garcia said, according to a Department press release.

Remedial help for students is also provided through the program.

The parents of Cameo and Gattis students who are eligible for the program will be notified via mail in coming weeks, according to David Briseno, Clovis Municipal Schools director of federal programs and community relations. The district identifies eligible students through performance on state standards based exams, Briseno said. Students of low-income families with low scores are given entrance priority, he said.

This marks the second year the program has been offered at Cameo and Gattis, but so far, it has garnered a luke warm response from parents, according to Briseno.
Only one parent expressed interest in the program last year, and that parent never actually enrolled their child in the program, Briseno said.

“We get some interest (in the program), but not an overwhelming amount,” Gattis Principal Craig Terry agreed.

School officials anticipate the program will, again, be unpopular among parents.
“It is not something that is very convenient,” Cameo Elementary Principal Carrie Nigreville said.

Program providers are screened and chosen by the state. None of the state’s 21 chosen providers are locally based, and the closest is in Albuquerque, Briseno said.
Because services are not provided by the district, transportation to and from programs must often be coordinated by parents, Briseno said. Schools, however, must pay for the cost of transportation with their Title 1 funding.

Tutoring and educational services are already in place at five different Clovis campuses, Briseno said. Those programs are heavily utilized, school officials said.
“In Clovis, historically, we have had fairly well-organized, high-quality tutoring,” Briseno said.

Providers chosen by the state are for-profit, Briseno said. The program is paid for through federal Title 1 funds.

Briseno is unconvinced the program will actually bolster student scores in math and reading.

“We still haven’t seen the data that shows what (the program) does to help kids. There is some data out there, but it doesn’t find this is a favorable approach,” Briseno said.

“It is not about kids, it’s about how much money (providers) can we make,” he said.
Results from a U.S. Department of Education did study the impact of service such as tutoring on student performance in 2003-04 were mixed, according to the department’s Web site,
Student attendance in afterschool tutoring was “a challenge,” and “provider communication with parents and teachers about student performance was sporadic or informal and seldom very effective,” the Web site reads.

The Web site also reads, “Many of the parents interviewed for the study… were satisfied with the services their children had received and believed that after-school tutoring had helped their children. Other parents… observed little benefit from the services.”

This year, 36 districts and 151 Title 1 schools in New Mexico are required to offer the free tutoring services, according to the press release.

Some 433 schools, or 54.1 percent, missed adequate yearly progress goals in 2006. Those federal goals are used to rate schools and are part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the rating system, schools are evaluated mainly on student performance and participation in math and reading tests administered in grade 3-9 and 11. Other factors include graduation rates for high schools and attendance rates for elementary and middle schools.

Federal law requires states increase their performance targets each year until 100 percent of students are proficient on tests by the 2013-14 school year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.