Federally mandated service left with hundreds of vacant spaces for low-income kids
Hundreds of spaces for free after-school tutoring are still available for low-income students at San Francisco public schools with low overall scores on state standardized tests, according to district officials.
In order to serve underachieving students, the San Francisco Unified School District is required under the federal No Child Left Behind education law to set aside about $1.6 million of its federal funding this year to provide tutoring services. Although there is enough money for approximately 1,300 students to get the free academic help, just over 1,000 families had signed up by last month’s Oct. 20 deadline, according to Ky Vu, the district official overseeing the tutoring program.
The district promises to “accept applications until we run out of money,” Vu said.
The tutoring services are available to students who come from low-income families who are scoring at basic or below in English and math on the state’s standardized tests.
Last year, more than 500 slots for thefree program went unfilled in San Francisco, and critics charged that the district did not do enough to publicize the program, since unused funds go back into a general pool for the low-achieving schools.
This year, the district relied on letters that went out in students’ backpacks, as well as promotion by school principals, to put the word out about the tutoring program, Vu said. At least one school said it had difficulty getting parents to sign up their children because the list of service providers that families can choose from — ranging from private education giants such as Kaplan to nonprofit organizations — was not translated into several languages.
Last year, 11 tutoring service providers divided the district pie, with Sylvan’s Education Station getting the biggest slice of business, 271 students and a $385,773 contract.
Tutoring services are scheduled to begin by the end of the month for families that have already signed up. For those who turn in applications from this point forward, services will start in January, Vu said.
Horace Mann Middle School Principal Paul Jacobsen said he received a lot of positive feedback about the tutoring services provided to students last year.
“We’re counting on them [the tutors] helping out students close their achievement gap,” Jacobsen said.