A federally mandated tutoring program targeting thousands of students who attend Baltimore City's worst performing schools is shelling out millions of dollars annually to organizations that are operating in the district with little oversight and virtually no academic accountability measures, according to a report released Tuesday by the Abell Foundation.
In the report, titled "Sending out an S.O.S. for the SES (Supplemental Educational Services)," researcher Joan Jacobson — whose complaints against her son's special education tutoring service resulted in the provider facing fraud charges and jail time — found that Baltimore is a burgeoning marketplace for the tutoring companies because it holds the bulk of the state's underperforming schools and low-income populations.
In the last nine years, the city school system has allocated $55 million to companies for the service; the city enrolled between 4,000 and 6,500 a year — only a fraction of the tens of thousands of students who qualify — since 2007. The per-pupil expenditure for the tutoring services was about $2,500 in the last school year, Jacobson found, paid directly to the organizations, who set their own hours and submit self-evaluations to prove their effectiveness.
The SES program was created under the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2002 to improve academic achievement for students who scored among the worst in the nation in reading and math. Jacobson concluded that the fundamental flaw of the SES services is the federal law that dictates it and its loose parameters.