City schools hire tutors to improve test scores



After three years of failing to meet Connecticut’s educational achievement standards, some New Haven public schools are using a new strategy to improve student learning — for-profit tutoring companies.

Students at three of New Haven’s lowest-performing public schools — Clemente Leadership Academy, Jackie Robinson Middle School and Hill Central Academy — can now receive tutoring from any organization or company that has been certified by the state of Connecticut. All tutoring will be paid for by the school district.

“Any entity that wants to offer supplemental services has to be certified by the state. If the state approves, then they are available to provide tutoring,” said Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, director of communications for the New Haven Public School district. “All three of those schools have after-school programs that we run that meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind service providers.”

The No Child Left Behind Act contains a provision that calls for greater choice for parents and students, particularly those at low-performing schools. Students at the identified New Haven schools may use any tutoring program that the parents choose, including private companies.

“Parents can choose which programs they use,” said Leroy Williams, principal of Clemente Leadership Academy. “The programs don’t have to be at Clemente.”

In the New Haven Public School District, each student is allotted $1300 of tutoring each year from a private tutoring service. Parents are able to choose from a list of tutoring options. Then the school, the tutoring provider and the parents meet to determine the student’s needs.

“As public schools we are held accountable for student results,” Sullivan-DeCarlo said. “Working with private vendors we still feel responsible that the curriculum and services provided are consistent and effective.”

The program went into effect briefly last spring, and Williams expects the tutoring programs to start up again at Clemente within the next month. Regina Coleman, president of Apados, one of the certified private tutoring companies, said only a few students opted to use private tutors last spring, but she anticipates greater interest in the future.

Coleman said although the private companies are in competition with the district-sponsored programs for students, the private companies and the school district have an amicable relationship. While she said the New Haven Public School District could better define the roles of private tutors, she noted that steps are being taken to bring improvement.

“Not that the relationship with New Haven is bad, but they still don’t have things written down that the providers are able to have in their hands,” Coleman said. “We met with [Dietra Wells, acting supervisor for Title I priority schools] last week though, and we had a good understanding of how the process works.”

Regardless of which tutoring service parents choose for their children, both private and public tutoring services hope that their efforts will bring about the intended increase in academic achievement.

“We always hope that kids will learn and that kids will get into a positive situation,” Williams said. “We’re glad that everyone is concerned about kids that are in need of improvement and the schools that are in need of improvement and hope that the services will produce a school that doesn’t need improvement.”

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