Are the Supplemental Education Services in NCLB Working?

One of the less talked about aspects of No Child Left Behind is the provision requiring struggling schools to offer supplemental education services (SES) to students. These services generally take the form of free tutoring.

Although there has been little research on SES effectiveness, a recent paper by the University of Chicago’s Matthew Steinberg gives the most comprehensive look thus far at who is using the services:

The results of this study, among the first empirical evaluations of SES participation, suggest that students with higher observed cognitive achievement are less likely to engage the SES provision, whereas students with better noncognitive performance are more likely to participate in SES.

The good news is that struggling students are more likely to use SES. The bad news is that students who are at-risk because of issues like low motivation, poor attendance, and bad behavior are less likely to use SES. Steinberg recommends more research on SES effectiveness and a greater effort by school SES programs to recruit students with non-cognitive problems.

Overall, the results probably fall somewhere between “meh” and “could be worse” on the reform excitement meter, but given the incipient nature of NCLB I think one can make the argument that the findings are encouraging.

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