Are Memphis Schools Getting What They Pay For?

The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act provided many programs for students through out the country. In the Memphis Schools, it made free pre-kindergarten and extra tutoring by teachers during school hours available to help achieve higher test scores and. Also, Memphis Schools’ low-income students received free extra-curricular tutoring.

However, an extensive study but the University of Memphis found that these students are not getting ahead, and the Memphis Schools are not getting what they are paying for.

The Center for Research in Educational Policy recently set up a review of Memphis Schools, and of the entire state, to measure the effects of these types of services. They explored such programs as free extra academic help (which in the Memphis Schools includes before and after school tutoring and Title 1 programs).

Supplemental educational services are provided to Title, schools that fail to achieve benchmark performance scores three years in a row. At that point, the Memphis Schools are required to provide the services. In Memphis Schools, the providers of these services can be companies, local community groups, programs, local colleges and universities, national organizations or church based groups.

In the Memphis Schools, there are fourteen companies, groups, or schools, which provided tutoring services to 988 students in math and 512 students in reading and language arts. Some of these charged as much as $1400 per student. While business is booming for the private tutoring industry, the study did not see any improvement in the student’s scores on benchmark testing. Within the Memphis Schools, the group found that this eligible that did receive assistance did not score any better than those who were eligible but did not receive the assistance.

The group tested the Memphis Schools students using the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program and Gateway testing scores to determine how the different groups faired. In the areas of math and reading Memphis Schools showed no improvement for those tutored. In fact, two of the providers of the tutoring services produced below standard outcomes during the 2005-2006 school year, and the remainder of the Memphis Schools students who received tutoring had insufficient information to determine the outcome.

One problem is keeping track of which students actually used the free services. It is unclear how Memphis Schools plan to eliminate this problem. Clearly, the private tutoring agencies need to show accountability or lose their contract. It was also suggested that teachers receive funding to oversee tutoring by non-profit groups and organizations. Memphis Schools teachers might be a better job at ensuring accountability. Memphis Schools face the huge issue of whether to keep spending their money on methods that don’t seem to be working, fix the methods, or give a fresh start.

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