School district to forgo private companies, pay teachers to tutor struggling students


Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 5:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 5:09 p.m.

Alachua County Public Schools will stop using private tutoring companies as part of a federal initiative to improve learning at low-performing schools, and instead will pay teachers to provide after-school tutoring.

The Florida Board of Education on Tuesday approved a measure that would give school districts more flexibility with Supplementary Educational Services, a tutoring initiative established under the No Child Left Behind Act.

With Tuesday’s amendment, school districts will have more freedom to negotiate with SES-approved private tutoring companies, or to end partnerships with the private companies and use the funding for other services that are allowed under Title I. Title I funding is provided to low-income schools that need the most academic support.

Everett Caudle, director of project development for Alachua County Public Schools, said the district is opting to stop using outside providers.

“We could do things like provide tutoring here, in house, so to speak,” Caudle said.

For the 2012-2013 school year, Alachua County received $612,079 in Title I funding specifically for SES tutoring.

With that money, Caudle said the district instead could pay teachers to give after-school tutoring, buy supplemental curriculum programs, provide pullout programs for struggling students, hire additional teaching staff or extend the school year to allow for more summer programs.

While the full plan hasn’t been finalized, “we’re not going to do SES, and we’re not going to do private providers,” said Pam Diaz, supervisor II for Title I programs in the district.

There are many reasons for that decision, she said.

The approved private providers were not all certified teachers. By replacing the private tutors with teachers, Diaz said, “we know that they’re highly qualified.”

Miranda Lasure, district coordinator for the SES-approved Just For Kids Tutoring company, said she employs tutors who have either 60 or more college credits (some of her tutors are college students) or are certified paraprofessionals who already work in the school district. She also uses some retired teachers as tutors for her company.

Lasure said she tries to match students and tutors who will have a good fit. The private tutoring sessions are one on one, which she said she doesn’t think will happen if the districts use only teachers for after-school tutoring.

“I’m thinking the group thing is not going to work as well,” she said.

On the other hand, Diaz added that under Title I, private tutoring companies received a certain amount of money per student -- usually about $1,000 --- and could decide how much to charge per hour for tutoring. There were also overhead costs for renting tutoring space and testing students.

The result was that students could receive, on average, only 18 to 22 hours of tutoring from the private companies, Diaz said.

“Some providers would be finished in December,” she said.

Another stipulation of SES was that it was available only to students who scored a level 1 or level 2 in FCAT subjects and who attended Title I schools.

The after-school tutoring will still be offered only at Title I schools, but which students receive the help will be determined on a more individualized basis, Diaz said.

Finally, she said, enrollment for SES no longer seemed efficient or effective.

Of the 1,741 students from 27 district Title I schools who qualified to receive SES tutoring, 523 students had enrolled by January on a rolling basis. The district was given funding for 642 students.

Diaz said offering tutoring directly after school instead of at night, and on campus rather than at another location, is likely to increase enrollment and ensure the students with the most need are receiving the most help.

Teachers will be paid a stipend for tutoring, and the service still will be free to students.

“To be quite honest, I think parents will appreciate it,” Diaz said. “We consider it a positive thing.”

The downside, Lasure said, is that if students can’t stay after school because of transportation issues, they won’t be able to get tutoring any other way.

Just For Kids tutors students in their homes, at the library or wherever is convenient, she said. One tutor offers Sunday sessions.

“We’re just real flexible about where and when,” she said.

Contact Erin Jester at 352-338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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