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Build Relationships with Providers
A literal reading of the SES provisions might seem to suggest a fairly passive role for school districts. The state approves providers and, with provider input, identifies which areas of the state each provider will serve.5 The district gets this list to parents of eligible students, who select a service provider for their child. The district then contracts with the providers who have been selected. However, this picture does not match the experience of the districts in this study, each of which found it valuable to take a more proactive role.
When districts reach out to providers, they can get more up-to-date, complete, and accurate provider information to share with parents. Districts can also give providers important localized information, such as whether they will be able to work at school sites, and how or if they will be able to get information about student academic performance, both past and ongoing. Clear district-provider communication, starting at first connection, can lead to specific agreements and contracts that smooth the way for and support effective services to students. From this solid base, even stronger programs and partnerships can be built over time. Especially when the district itself is a provider, it is essential that all providers feel they have equal access to participation in the program.
Find Out About Providers Who Will Serve Your District
Districts need to verify which providers will, in fact, serve their students. The need for districts to seek current information from providers may have been especially acute in 2002-03, the first year of SES implementation. With what was effectively a new NCLB-driven market opening up, and with the extent of demand not yet determined, it was optimistic to think that initial provider interest would necessarily translate into commitment. In its memorandum analyzing SES in 2002-03, Rochester staff articulated a common problem:
"Most of the approved SES providers were not based in Rochester and could not adequately market the program from afar. They were stuck in a catch-22 situation-trying to plan for staffing a program in Rochester, but unable to staff the program until they signed up enough students to justify the staffing. Many providers opted to drop out for a year, while planning for 03-04."
The experiences of the other districts were similar, with some providers on the state list not able or willing to offer services locally, occasionally even dropping out after parents had signed up.
Districts will need to continue to be in close communication with providers as both the supply side and demand side evolve. The market is a moving target, shifting according to the degree of demand and the success of providers in growing their capacity to meet it.6
Both Los Angeles and San Diego reached out to providers on the state list in order to get more complete information. They wanted to be sure that they could give parents information about providers that was comparable, dependable, and easy to understand, as required in the guidance. Although states post information about providers on their Web sites, the categories of information they include tend to vary, and individual providers may leave some categories blank. Some providers, but not all, have brochures or Web sites, and the nature of the information they offer varies. In addition, as noted above, specific answers may vary by location and change over time.
San Diego sent a written questionnaire to providers and followed up with interviews. Los Angeles created a simple, standardized one-page template that each provider was asked to fill out addressing such issues as grade levels served, staff qualifications, and demonstrated effectiveness. The results were then compiled in a brochure sent to all eligible parents, as well as being posted on the district's Web site in both Spanish and English.
Los Angeles also held several meetings for all state-approved providers who were interested in delivering services in Los Angeles, at which staff described district procedures and answered questions (see figure 6).
Work Out Provider Access to Facilities
A critical issue is where services will be provided. In many cases, a school site is an attractive location. Parents like to have after-school services housed in the same place their child attends school; it's familiar and no transportation is required. But in deciding whether or which providers should be allowed to work at the school site, a number of factors must be considered, including adequate student management and supervision, teacher property and space, and costs to the district.
Most districts have existing policies defining what types of organizations can use district facilities, under what conditions, and at what costs. Some, but not all districts in this study made school facilities available for providers under lease agreements, while the specifics of those agreements ranged significantly. For example, in one district a provider might pay only $16.80 per classroom for two hours although in another the provider would have to pay almost $300 for a four-hour minimum period.
When considering whether to offer school space to providers and when working out lease arrangements, districts will want to weigh the impact on parent's access to diverse providers. As one provider notes, "If the cost is prohibitive and would essentially eliminate hours of instructional service, then the school site is not a viable option, [which] reduces participation in the program."
Any decision to lease school space to SES providers must take into consideration the fact that some member of the school staff will need to be available to supervise them. Minimally, schools need to be assured that no unauthorized individuals will be in the building, which means someone needs to let students and-sometimes-their parents into the building and to make sure everyone is out of the building before locking up. Especially with young students, someone also needs to make sure that after their tutoring sessions they meet up with their "ride," which may mean letting them go with their parent or, in some cases, getting them onto a bus. All districts should already have in place facilities-use policies and procedures for any non-district program wishing to use district buildings, and a standard policy is to require anyone using a facility to pay for supervision. This applies to SES providers along with everyone else. The school principal is generally the person to assure that someone is assigned to this role.
Figure 6. Agenda from Los Angeles Meeting with Service Providers
No Child Left Behind Supplemental Educational Services Meeting
August 4, 2003
Program Improvement School Information
Student Learning Plans
Electronic Attendance Report Forms
Master Contract/Individual Services Agreement
Access to School Sites/Leasing Procedures
Access to Parents
Besides encouraging the use of school site space, Rochester has also built on its strong community partnerships to look for other available space that would be convenient for parents. The district has actively sought out the Rochester Housing Authority in an effort to link it with providers who may be interested in offering SES in centrally located community centers throughout the city.
Create a Fair Contract That Sets Clear Expectations
A contract between district and service provider that "leaves nothing to the imagination" provides a solid base for a smooth relationship, these districts emphasize. NCLB specifies a number of components that must be covered in such an agreement; others have been added in one or more of these districts. Each district has a detailed written agreement, ranging from the 25-page "Supplemental Services Master Contract" in Los Angeles to Toledo's eight-page agreement.
Some of the core specifics have to do with the learning goals set for each student, the timeline for achieving them, and how progress will be measured and reported to parents and the districts. These elements are generally laid out in a student learning plan, following a format set by the district, which is incorporated by reference in the contract. See subsequent section "Set Clear Goals and Monitor Progress" for further discussion and examples.
According to NCLB law and guidance (Non-regulatory Guidance, Section G-2)*, the district contract with a service provider must include:
- Specific achievement goals for the student, which must be developed in consultation with the student's parents [Section 1116(e)(3)(A)];
- A description of how the student's progress will be measured and how the student's parents and teachers will be regularly informed of that progress [Section 1116(e)(3)(A) and (B)];
- A timetable for improving the student's achievement;
- A provision for termination of the agreement if the provider [does not] meet student progress goals and timetables [Section 1116(e)(3)(C)];
- Provisions governing payment for the services, which may include provisions addressing missed sessions [Section 1116(e)(3)(D)];
- A provision prohibiting the provider from disclosing to the public the identity of any student eligible for or receiving supplemental educational services without the written permission of the student's parents [Section 1116(e)(3)(E)]; and
- An assurance that supplemental educational services will be provided consistent with applicable health, safety, and civil rights laws (see C-3 through C-5).
Once an SES provider has been placed on a state's approved-provider list, districts may not require that it meet additional criteria or go through an additional approval process before providing services in the district. Districts can, however, require that providers abide by applicable local health, safety, and civil rights laws.
Interpreting these guidelines, districts are routinely including in their contract such specifics as staff clearance requirements (e.g., fingerprinting and background checks), insurance needed, and child abuse reporting requirements.
Some district contracts also specify the district's own obligations. One states explicitly that transportation will not be provided for students. One includes a statement that a provider must serve all students who apply, up to maximum capacity.
Billing arrangements generally require the provider to submit a listing of the services that have been provided, for whom, for how many hours, and at what cost. Los Angeles has developed an attendance form and uses that form and the student's progress report as verification of services. One district has specifically stated that there is "no up-front money," specifically eliminating payment for services like student-accessed online tutorials that they found some students didn't actually use.
Districts should consider the impact of their billing policies on providers, especially those that are smaller or newly established. Often operating with less capital than larger or better-established tutoring services, these providers may not be prepared to handle large amounts of paperwork or able to float expenses during longer billing cycles.
In all instances, districts must strive to be impartial brokers in dealing with and communicating about SES providers. Among other things, this means paying close attention to the possibility of negative unintended consequences resulting from district policies (e.g., as in billing policies, noted above, that might eliminate small providers from the mix available to parents). When the district itself is also an SES provider, it is especially important that it not inadvertently set up a system giving it an unfair competitive advantage over other providers.
Increase Communication and Coordination Between Providers and Schools
Because schools and teachers have regular access to parents and students, it is important for districts to link providers to schools. The key step in doing so is to encourage schools to take ownership of SES implementation. This can be as simple as having schools generate their own version of the district SES letter to parents. It can also entail something more elaborate, as in Rochester's decision to create a Title I-funded position at each of its most impacted schools for the purpose of coordinating the various academic interventions, including SES, that might be in place for individual students. A key objective is to ensure effective communication around services so they are appropriately targeted, while eliminating unnecessary redundancy, both in communication and, more importantly, services.
Districts should also work to link providers to classroom teachers. One way to do so is in the exchange of data regarding the student learning plans. Although most districts supply providers with students' most recent standardized test scores, many classroom teachers can provide a more comprehensive understanding of students' skill levels and learning needs than is available from assessment scores alone. San Diego, Forsyth County, and Rochester encourage teachers to provide student data to providers to aid in the development of individual student learning plans. In Forsyth, SES tutors were encouraged to contact teachers, who had ready access to recent achievement data through the district's TestTrax system. Several teachers reported a desire to have even more contact with tutors in the future. Providers note that this cooperation helps them set targeted goals with parents and students.
These efforts are critical in supporting the work of providers and enlisting schools in implementing SES. Initially, they allow districts and schools to build stronger relationships with providers, but they also assist with fully integrating SES into the district's improvement strategy and with monitoring providers' impact on student achievement. Most importantly, they allow for the transfer of information that helps everyone do their best in helping students learn.
Figure 7. Resources to Help Community Organizations Become SES Providers
Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives
The Finance Project's Out-of-School Time Project
Title I Supplemental Educational Services and Afterschool Programs: Opportunities and Challenges (August 2002), a Finance Project strategy brief, is designed to help administrators for after-school programs, such as 21st Century Community Learning Centers, understand what supplemental services are, consider the programmatic and administrative implications of becoming a provider, and identify the steps that they need to take to do so successfully.
Expand the Number and Type of Providers
Having a broad range of providers can increase the opportunity for parents to find the best possible fit for their children, as well as ensure that all interested parents can be served. To this end, districts can build on their existing partnerships and contacts in the community, encouraging more organizations to apply to the state as SES providers. Districts should consider approaching nontraditional providers, which may include county agencies, colleges and universities, and community- and faith-based organizations. In San Diego, a nearby university had been piloting an extended learning program in three district schools. Pleased with the partnership, the district proposed that the university apply to become an SES provider, which it did. San Diego also worked out a partnership with a local nonprofit that was already transporting district students to its own after-school program. Under the new partnership, the organization agreed to let SES providers use its facilities so eligible students in the after-school program could receive SES tutoring on-site. See figure 7 for resources to help community organizations become SES providers. (See, also, later discussions of working with community groups to get the word out.)
Some districts may find themselves with relatively few SES providers willing to work with their students, compared to the number of state-approved providers identified as serving the district's geographic region. In such instances, the district may want to explore the underlying reasons by interviewing or surveying providers. If providers identify certain district policies or practices as problematic, the district can review them and determine whether they are important to keep as is or could be reasonably modified with the aim of developing a broader pool of SES providers from which local parents can choose.
Districts with isolated rural schools may face the greatest challenge in ensuring that parents of SES-eligible children have diverse providers from which to choose. If the time required to travel to a school is long and the number of students seeking SES services is relatively small, providers may decide it is not worth their while to offer services at the school even if they were given space. Distance learning programs are often mentioned as an option in these circumstances, although such programs require an adequate technology infrastructure and the ability to assign personnel to supply on-site support for students during their SES sessions. If a district lacks these, it may want to consider partnering with the closest education services agency (ESA), known in different states as county offices of education, direct service districts, or boards of cooperative educational services. Some ESAs may already have the required technology and staff to support online learning. ESAs may also be well-positioned to become SES providers themselves, especially if they could serve students from multiple schools or from more than one district.
Summary for Build Relationships with Providers
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* The Department's of Education's Supplemental Educational Services Non-Regulatory Guidance is available as a pdf at: http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/suppsvcsguid.pdf