SEA conditions on provider
December 28, 2004
Dear Chief State School Officer:
As we approach the third anniversary of the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), we are encouraged by the enthusiasm and support for the law that we see from educators and parents in communities around the country. We are particularly grateful for your efforts related to the provision of supplemental educational services (SES) under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The purpose of this letter is to clarify several policy issues related to SES implementation to help you make SES more effective in your State.
Implementing SES fairly and effectively. As stated in the letter sent to you in August (available at www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/stateletters/choice/ses082604.html), a local educational agency (LEA) may not set additional requirements related to a provider's program design. However, a State educational agency (SEA), if it so chooses, may set such requirements as part of its responsibility to approve providers that offer a research-based program of services and to monitor the services offered by approved providers to ensure that they contribute to increased student achievement. For example, an SEA could set parameters regarding the hourly fee a provider charges, taking into account the provider's student/teacher ratios, the number of sessions to be offered, and the quality of the provider's staff. The goal of such parameters would be to help ensure that providers' charges for services are appropriate, based on the level and quality of services they provide. An LEA may not set these types of programmatic parameters.
An SEA should also ensure that providers do not engage in unfair business practices. For example, an SEA should clearly take action if it learns that a provider is offering "kickbacks" to district or school officials or is engaging in false advertising about its program or other providers' programs.
Finally, to help ensure that LEAs implement the SES provisions well, an SEA may wish to provide LEAs with guidance on developing fair and equitable contracts with providers, on working with providers to access facilities, and on ensuring that LEAs do not limit providers' abilities to promote their programs and services. For example, an SEA may wish to set guidelines regarding how long LEAs' enrollment windows must be for SES, or encourage LEAs to implement a rolling enrollment process. Additionally, an SEA could develop a model contract for all LEAs to use for their agreement with providers. This action would relieve LEAs of developing their own contract vehicles and ensure that contracts across a State have consistently fair provisions regarding LEA and contractor responsibilities.
Loss of LEA eligibility to provide SES. Title I regulations prohibit an LEA in need of improvement from serving as an SES provider. We expect the SEA to clearly notify an LEA of its improvement status prior to the beginning of the school year. An SEA should provide an LEA as much advance notice as possible of a potential change in improvement status, to allow the LEA previously serving as an SES provider to act quickly to offer parents who signed up for its services the option of selecting another SES provider immediately. Although the SEA should notify the LEA of its status prior to the beginning of the school year, if the notification comes late, an SEA must require an LEA identified for improvement to cease offering its SES program. Recognizing that the LEA must notify parents that it is no longer approved to provide an SES program, and possibly the need to transition students currently receiving SES services from the LEA to an alternative SES provider, we would expect that the LEA would cease offering its SES program no later than the start of the next semester of the school year. An LEA in need of improvement can continue to offer extended learning opportunities to its students, but may not charge the expenses for such initiatives against the 20 percent set-aside requirement for SES and transportation related to public school choice.
Improving outreach and information. We encourage SEAs to consider ways to improve parents' access to and understanding of SES. To this end, an SEA could provide technical assistance to LEAs on ways to allow providers to directly engage parents through "provider fairs" and other local events. Similarly, because many parents take advantage of SES most enthusiastically when educators from their child's school encourage their child's participation, an SEA could encourage LEAs to arrange for providers to meet with teachers and principals to inform them about their programs.
An SEA could also provide technical assistance to its LEAs to remove barriers to parent participation in SES. For example, an SEA could encourage LEAs to make the registration process as open and accessible as possible by making registration materials widely available to parents and providers. An SEA might even wish to consider posting on its website an SES registration form that parents could download, complete, and turn in to their district. Such a form would list the providers available to parents and could be accepted by all districts in the State.
We hope that this information is useful to you, and we urge you to convey this information to LEAs in your State. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of our offices. We very much appreciate the work you are doing to ensure that all eligible students have access to high-quality supplemental educational services.
Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education
Nina Shokraii Rees
Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement