Supplemental Educational Services and Student Achievement in Five Waiver Districts

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  • Title I schools that do not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two consecutive years are identified for school improvement. If an identified Title I school does not make AYP while in that status and thus enters the second year of school improvement status, its district must offer students from low-income families in the school the opportunity to receive free supplemental educational services (SES). The district must also offer SES to students from low-income families in schools that continue to miss AYP targets and are identified for corrective action or restructuring. Parents of eligible students may choose a provider from the state approved list and the school district pays for the services.
  • Federal regulations prohibit school districts identified for improvement or corrective action from serving as SES providers. The SES waiver pilot program allowed five identified districts to serve as SES providers beginning in 2005–06 (Boston and Chicago), 2006–07 (Hillsborough County, Florida and Anchorage, Alaska), and 2008–09 (Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina).
  • In 2009–10, the pilot was replaced with a more expansive waiver opportunity that allows states to request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to approve identified districts or schools as SES providers.

Main Study Questions

  • Did the percentage of eligible students participating in SES during the pilot years increase from the previous year(s)?
  • Do SES participants in waiver districts show achievement gains relative to students who do not participate? Do students served by district SES providers in waiver districts show achievement gains that are at least comparable to those of students served by non district providers?
  • Are districts communicating with parents about the availability of SES in a manner that is clear, easy to understand, and unbiased with respect to particular providers?

Findings and Implications

  • In the three districts that did not serve as SES providers before the waiver (Anchorage, Charlotte Mecklenburg, and Hillsborough), SES participation rates increased in the first year of the waiver. (Boston and Chicago served as providers prior to receipt of the waiver.)
  • There were few demographic or academic differences between students served by district providers and students served by non-district providers.
  • Students in three of the five districts demonstrated statistically significantly larger mathematics achievement gains during periods of SES participation than during periods of nonparticipation. In addition, in two districts, SES participation was associated with statistically significant reading gains. Averaged across the five districts, the overall association between SES participation and achievement gains was statistically significant in both mathematics and reading, relative to nonparticipation.
  • Across the five districts, the achievement gains associated with SES participation relative to nonparticipation did not differ for district and non-district providers for either mathematics of reading.
  • All five districts reported using multiple communication strategies to reach eligible families, provided balanced information about SES providers, translated information into at least one language other than English, and provided extended enrollment periods.

Study Rationale

Request of the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development

Study Design

The analyses used a fixed effects approach, which calculates "value-added" estimates of the achievement gains associated with SES by comparing the pre treatment and post treatment achievement of each individual student.

Data Sources

  • Student-level data from districts on:
    • State achievement tests (grades 3–8 in Boston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and Chicago and grades 3–10 in Anchorage and Hillsborough),
    • Eligibility for and participation in SES, and
    • Demographics.
  • District communication documents with parents regarding SES.

Study Limitations

Given that this evaluation included only the five districts that received waivers, it is not representative of the population of all districts nationally. Therefore, the findings from this report should not be generalized to the effectiveness of SES in general, or SES provided by district or non-district providers.

Study Budget



American Institutes for Research and RTI International

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Last Modified: 03/30/2011