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Does Tutoring Work?

In one of its signature provisions, the No Child Left Behind law requires that students in underperforming schools be given access to after-school tutoring programs. But in Chicago, a controversy is brewing over whether the $50 million that city schools paid for tutoring services last year was money well spent. A recent review conducted by the district shows that elementary school students who received tutoring performed only marginally better on math and reading tests than similarly situated children who did not get extra assistance. According to the study, struggling students who were not eligible for tutoring actually made the strongest academic gains. “On the micro level, I believe there are kids who need [tutoring] and it’s doing great things,” commented Erica Harris, head of tutoring for the district. “But at the macro level, for the amount of investment, I would want to see more output.” Some of the tutoring firms involved blamed poor organization on the district’s part for the unimpressive results. Mayor Richard Daley, for his part, defended the tutoring programs, saying measurable progress would take more time. He added that the services would be more effective, in his view, if students were in school year-round.

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