Sending Out An S.O.S. for SES (Supplemental Educational Services)

September 2011 / Abell Reports / Education

No Child Left Behind’s “free” tutoring program for poor children costs the public millions, but is it working in Baltimore City and Maryland schools?

Each year, under the federal program called Supplemental Educational Services (SES), the Baltimore City Public School System (City Schools) pays educational vendors millions of public dollars to tutor thousands of its poorest students in its lowest achieving schools. Established in 2002 by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, SES was created to improve academic achievement for students whose math and reading scores are among the lowest in the nation’s public schools. Like other large urban districts, Baltimore City Public Schools is a prime beneficiary of this federal program.

However, despite this large expense in public funds, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), like other state education agencies across the country, has no credible evidence that SES is making a difference. As required by federal law, City Schools has spent $55 million on the program over the last nine years. In the2010-11 school year alone, City Schools was required to allocate $12 million for SES tutoring to serve 5,769students in 41 schools.

This study finds that although the federal law expects the SES program to improve academic performance, it neither sets standards for evaluating students’ progress nor does it require state education agencies or local school systems to provide evidence of improvement to the U.S. Department of Education or to the public.