A school system was delivering remedial reading instruction to all students who received free lunch. This was to satisfy a NCLB sanction for not making adequate yearly progress with all subgroups. The goal of the intervention was to bring the students to grade level proficiency. All of the curriculum being used was remedial. The majority of the students receiving services received free or reduced-price lunch but read at or above grade level. When we pointed this out, the school system thought we were accusing them of serving kids who were not poor. The outside tutoring companies that were providing the services had no academic data on the students. Of the four agencies, one had tested the students before tutoring them, but reported to us that although many of the students’ pre-test scores were very high, they only had remedial curriculum so they used it for everyone.
Beliefs and Skills of the Staff
Knowing What At-Risk Means: This school was serving the students that they were required to serve, due to not making Adequate Yearly Progress with a subgroup for two years. They were required to offer tutoring to all free-lunch kids. They were not alone in thinking that all of these kids needed remedial tutoring. We evaluated about 20 of these programs, and this is what they were all assuming without looking at the academic data of the kids.
We conducted interviews and focus groups with the teachers in the school as part of our evaluation. They reported to us that the students who were being tutored were below grade level in reading and math. They said they must be or it wouldn’t make sense to tutor them with remedial curriculum. As a result of the teachers believing this (even though the majority of the kids were above grade level), they developed low expectations for these students. They recommended the low track for these students who went on to middle school, even if they were high scoring. This particular school system continued to conduct this program the same way the following year, and quit evaluating it. A few years after our evaluation, they evaluated the program again and asked the staff in a survey if they thought they had the right kids. They staff thought they did, so they considered the case closed.
The head of the evaluation department of this school explained to Edstar staff that because the school assignment policy was based on the belief that low-income kids were academically at-risk, that treating them otherwise would defy school policy. He prohibited using academic data for making service and placement decisions, and vilified Edstar because we helped schools learn to use academic data.