Tutoring companies in NYC have engaged in a number of improper activities while trying to enroll poor students in Supplemental Educational Services (SES) programs, according to this NY Times article. I have no idea if some of the more aggressive companies working at my school have done anything like the examples in the article (both Newton Learning and Platform Learning are mentioned specifically in the city's report and are particularly aggressive in going after students and parents), but the atmosphere that these companies create in the school really poisons the whole process. A lot of parents have no idea what is going on and often don't know what they are signing, but they are really pressured by representatives of these companies at parent-teacher conferences and other school events to sign their kids up for SES.
Even though the recruiting efforts were stepped up this year, there hasn't been much difference in the numbers of kids enrolled in SES programs (it is still pathetically low). Most of my kids that signed up for other programs stopped going a long time ago, and it seems like the only ones that are really benefiting already have good tests scores and involved parents. If most parents don't understand the programs they are enrolling their kids in, how can schools expect struggling and disruptive kids to take it upon themselves to show up for tutoring on their own initiative? SES programs, at least at my school, are not serving the kids that need the most help.
I don't know what the solution is since the 37.5 extra minutes a day has been a nightmare so far at my school (more on this in the next post). The problems with SES can't all be blamed on tutoring companies, but I believe that a lot of them do start there.