June 27, 2007
Students in underperforming schools generally made statistically significant gains in math and reading after participating in supplemental educational services such as tutoring and remediation, according to a study conducted by the RAND Corporation for the U.S. Department of Education.
The Department of Education, which issued the study today, asked RAND to gauge the effects of federally funded Title I school choice and supplemental educational services established under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001.
The study found that students who transferred out of poorly performing schools to better performing schools did not experience any significant improvement in test scores, cautioning that limited data makes it difficult to draw a conclusion.
Conclusions regarding the academic impact of supplemental services were clearer. “Providing supplemental educational opportunities is showing potential for improving the performance of underachieving students,” said Ron Zimmer, the study's senior author and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
The study was based on data collected from the following nine large urban school districts: Baltimore; Chicago; Denver; Long Beach, Calif.; Los Angeles; Palm Beach, Fla.; Philadelphia; San Diego; and Washington, D.C.
Under NCLB, public schools are required to ensure that all children in the United States are proficient in reading and math by 2014. Schools that don't make adequate yearly progress toward meeting state standards for two or more years are identified for school improvement.
Parents of children who attend a Title I school in the first year that the school is identified for improvement are offered the opportunity to transfer their children to another school that is not identified for improvement in the same district.
At a Title I school that has been identified for improvement after one year, low-income parents are offered the opportunity to enroll their children in supplemental education services. These services include tutoring, remediation, and other academic instruction offered by a state-approved provider, in addition to instruction provided during the school year.
Congress is expected to vote on reauthorizing NCLB later this year.
Among the key findings of the new report:
- Supplemental educational services like tutoring had a positive influence on reading and math test scores in five out of seven large districts studied where there were sufficient students to examine effects.
- Only a small number of students in nine large urban districts studied have opted to transfer out of failing schools and into better performing schools. In the districts where achievement results could be obtained, there was no discernable achievement gain as a result of moving.
- Minority children from low-achieving schools, particularly African-Americans, were more likely to use supplemental educational services.
The report found that in five out of seven school districts examined, participation in supplemental educational services had a “statistically significant, positive effect on students' achievement in reading and math and in many of the districts, these gains may accumulate for students participating multiple years,” Zimmer said.
Overall, when students chose to switch schools, they tended to move to more racially balanced schools.
Other authors of the report are Brian Gill, Paula Razquin, J.R. Lockwood and Kevin Booker.
Copies of the report, “State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act: Vol. I– Title I School Choice, Supplemental Educational Services, and Student Achievement” can be found at www.rand.org and www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/opepd/ppss/reports.html#title.
RAND Education conducts research and analysis on a variety of topics, including school reform, educational assessment and accountability, and trends among teachers and teacher training.