Request for a flexibility agreement to provide supplemental educational services.
November 3, 2005
Honorable Thomas W. Payzant
Boston Public Schools
26 Court Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Dear Dr. Payzant:
I am writing in response to your request for a flexibility agreement on behalf of Boston Public Schools (BPS) to permit BPS to provide supplemental educational services under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).
Supplemental educational services (SES) are an important component of NCLB, giving low-income families real options to obtain free tutoring and other academic enrichment services for their children. This extra help for students who attend schools in need of improvement is a key element of school improvement efforts and efforts to increase student achievement. We have learned valuable lessons about SES, a new initiative under NCLB, in these first few years of implementation. Creating and implementing a successful SES program takes coordination and cooperation by States, school districts, providers, and parents.
Unfortunately, not enough eligible students are receiving SES. According to several studies and surveys, only 10 to 20 percent of eligible students across the country participated in SES during the 2003-04 school year. Therefore, in order to increase the number of students receiving services, as well as the quality of services provided to students, the U.S. Department of Education is beginning several SES pilot programs in a select number of school districts across the country. Pilot programs will fulfill two key priorities: they will ensure that more students are receiving SES, and they will ensure better information on how programs are improving the academic achievement of students receiving services. I hope to gain valuable information about SES from these pilot programs -- information that can be shared with other States, districts, and the Congress to help them improve the quality of these services.
BPS has requested that the district be allowed to provide SES to eligible students in Title I schools under section 1116(e) of Title I, even though the district has been identified for improvement under section 1116(c) and thus, under the Department's regulations (34 C.F.R. §200.47(b)(1)(iv)(B)), in the absence of a flexibility agreement, is ineligible to provide SES this school year.
I am approving BPS's request under section 9401 of the ESEA for a flexibility agreement for the 2005-06 school year as part of the Department's SES pilot program. This agreement permits BPS to be eligible to be a provider of SES to eligible students in Title I schools even though the district has been identified for improvement. BPS will still need to become an approved provider through Massachusetts' normal approval process. My approval of this flexibility agreement is also conditioned on BPS's fulfilling the conditions detailed in the enclosed attachment.
In addition, as required by section 9401(b)(3)(B) of the ESEA, within 30 days of the date of this letter, BPS must provide notice and information to the public about its participation in the pilot in the manner in which it customarily provides similar notice to the public. BPS must also submit a report under section 9401(e)(1) of the ESEA to the Massachusetts Department of Education at the end of the 2005-06 school year that describes the district's provision of SES in Title I schools; describes how those schools continued to provide Title I services to eligible students; and evaluates the progress of the district and schools in improving the quality of instruction or the academic achievement of students. The Massachusetts Department of Education must then submit a report to the Department based on BPS's report.
This flexibility agreement will serve several important goals: increasing the numbers of students receiving SES; ensuring early notice about SES through multiple venues and extended enrollment windows; allowing external organizations reasonable access to school facilities; and providing information on the academic achievement of students receiving SES. Making this SES pilot program a success for all involved, particularly the children receiving the services, will provide the Department with important information that will help to ensure the successful implementation of SES in future years. We hope that BPS will become a model of high-quality implementation of SES. To that end, the Department would like to work in partnership with BPS throughout this year as it implements SES, and we ask BPS to share with the Department examples of those practices and strategies that are effective and why. The Department would like to learn from the experiences of BPS and disseminate that information to other districts around the country.
This flexibility agreement applies to the provision of SES in Title I schools in Boston during the 2005-06 school year and is subject to an annual review at the end of the school year. We hope this will be a longer-term program if the district fulfills the conditions detailed in the enclosed attachment.
Supplemental educational services are an important component of No Child Left Behind, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that students are accessing services and succeeding in the classroom.
cc: Honorable David P. Driscoll, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Education
Attachment: Conditions of Flexibility Agreement
Early Notification of Opportunities
- Participating districts will provide parents with an early notification of opportunities for supplemental educational services (SES) under NCLB, contingent on the availability of final State data.
- Participating districts will notify parents of the availability of SES in correspondence that is simply written and in a language that parents can understand.
- Participating districts will notify parents of the availability of SES by letter to the student's home and by at least two other means.
- Participating districts will broadly circulate information in the community about the availability of SES.
- Participating districts will provide more than one opportunity or window during the school year in which parents can enroll in SES.
- Participating districts will provide additional notification to parents whenever they are provided further opportunities or windows to choose services.
- Parents in participating districts will be granted a reasonable length of time to make their choices of SES.
Fees for the Use of School District Facilities
- Participating districts will agree to charge fees for the use of facilities that are reasonable and similar in nature and amount to the fees charged to other similarly classified external organizations that seek to use school facilities.
- Participating districts will make a good faith effort to allow external organizations to provide their services in existing school facilities, contingent on available space or other logistical concerns.
- Participating districts will agree to an independent third-party evaluation of the effects of their own services and those of external providers on State reading and math tests, adjusting for differences in English language learners and students with disabilities.