Column: View Point
When One Door Closes, 50 More May Open: Taking the Case for SES to the States
Last Thursday, I was in the conference room of the US. Department of Education participating in a special briefing by Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary Carmel Martin on waivers to NCLB. It was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year -- one of the most holy of Jewish holidays. When it was my turn to ask a question of the Secretary, I was tempted to ask if the Department would have gone ahead with the meeting if it were Good Friday.
Instead, I respectfully asked the Secretary if States that submitted a waiver application in full acceptance of the four reform principles (see previous story) were to include mandatory tutoring for low performing Title I schools, would these applications be acceptable to the USDE. Secretary Duncan, without hesitation, replied that his Department would grant waivers to any and all States that wanted to use tutoring as an intervention if that is what a State decides and if that State adopts the four principles of reform.
What does this mean for the SES community?
It means we have the opportunity to take our case to state education agencies. We need to demonstrate how tutoring must be part of the waiver application as one of the few student-centric tools that has – and will continue to have -- an immediate impact on student achievement. Everything else the federal government spends on low-performing schools is for the adults in school systems: principal and teacher training, new technology, instructional standards and assessment tools, etc.
Indeed, nothing other than tutoring provides a direct and immediate intervention just for the kids that are trapped in struggling schools.
In making our case, we need to recognize the imperfections of SES, and offer concrete remedies to state and local school administrators. It is time to find new middle ground with policy-makers that will preserve after school tutoring for low income, academically struggling students.
Here are some preliminary ideas up for consideration when States prepare waiver applications:
So what will be future of SES be? For one thing, I say let’s get rid of the name—it is a toxic brand that has way too much baggage. Let’s call it what it is – free tutoring for students with significant achievement gaps (or “FTFSWSAG”); or maybe just free tutoring.
There will likely be a contraction in the free tutoring market both in terms of the number of students eligible and in the number of providers left to conduct business. Do we really need over 2500 tutoring providers? Many providers are entrepreneurial organizations and they will figure out a business solution that schools will embrace.
Finally, please know that EIA will continue to be here to help these organizations in a post-SES era, identifying both private-pay and school-funded opportunities.
About the Contributor
Steve Pines has served as the Executive Director of the Education Industry Association since January 2004. Prior to joining EIA, Mr. Pines was a Vice-President for Sylvan Learning Systems, Inc. (1993-2003) managing workforce development services and education programs for at-risk youth. During this time, Mr. Pines also developed a new business channel with two and four-year colleges for developmental education services, as well as in the corporate training area. Mr. Pines worked for eight years as a Deputy Director at the Enterprise Foundation, working to revitalize low income neighborhoods nationwide. His initial work in education and employment policy spanned positions at the National Alliance of Business, the National Association of Counties, and the United States Department of Labor- Employment and Training Administration, where he worked during the Carter Administration. Pines has a MBA from Southern Illinois University, a MA in education psychology from the University of Connecticut, and a BA from Hobart College.