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Lack of tutoring services contributed to MSA score declines

Personal IncomeU.S. Department of Education

In response to your July 23rd article, "State test scores decline significantly," the writers lament the lower student test scores in comparison to last year, particularly in math. Much of the blame is attributed to a change in curriculum to conform to Common Core standards. While I support this transition and believe it is necessary to better educate our students, the article misses a very important point. The impact on many of Maryland's most vulnerable students has been significant. To date, 8,200 students primarily in Baltimore City and Prince George's County have lost access to free tutoring services.

Tutoring can be a great leveler when it comes to increasing student performance in under-performing schools. Through the No Child left Behind Act (NCLB), students from low-income families across the country had access to federally funded tutoring through a program known as Supplemental Educational Services (SES). Unfortunately, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which provides critical funding to this program. As a result many states, including Maryland, have applied and received waivers from NCLB that, among other things, remove the requirement to provide tutoring to low-income students struggling academically in underperforming schools.

Study after study has demonstrated that tutoring works. It provides a lifeline for students who struggle in underperforming schools each year. Maryland schools can blame the new curriculum for the drop in test scores, but they are not providing their students with the proper tools to improve performance. The bottom line is that families who are better off will have the means to hire a tutor to help their children improve, while children whose families are not so fortunate will be left behind.

Tutoring does more than just help students improve grades. It provides a critical opportunity for parents to get more involved in their children's education. But those who need it most don't have access, and that is the real disappointment in this story. Maryland should recognize the shortsighted decision to end free tutoring and provide disadvantaged students with the resources they need to succeed.

Stephanie Monroe, Washington

The writer is the former head of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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