SHADOW PRIVATIZATION Local Experiences with Supplemental Education Services

The tutoring industry has been transformed since the late 1990s. Multinational corporations see there is much money to be made in tutoring students after school, and are competing for business.1 In the United States, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has helped drive these transformations through mandates that I identified in earlier chapters. Specifically, districts with schools that have not made test score targets under NCLB must set aside a percentage of their Title I funds for after-school programming also known as supplemental education services (SES)? Parents of eligible children select an SES vendor from a list approved by the state. SES providers may include for-profit firms, nonprofit firms, and school districts. The district pays the firms directly from Title I funds. As the number of schools failing to make test score targets increases, so does the level of funding allocated for this purpose. The funds set aside for SES increased from $1.75 billion in fiscal year 2001 to approximately $2.55 billion in FY 2005?

A small but growing body of literature has examined these developments and offered policymakers a useful framework for thinking about the implementation challenges of SES and its effects on student achievement? However, so far this work has examined the dynamics and effects of SES independently from its market-based origins: neoliberalism. This chapter begins to address the silence in the discourse by examining SES as an instance of the broader trend toward market-based education services, described in Chapter 1.

My focus is on how district administrators, tutors, school staff, and parents experience the shift toward more market-based models of after-school tutoring. The themes I discuss are based on qualitative methods; specifically, interviewing and participant observation, conducted between 2006 and 2008 as part of an in-depth study of SES in one district, which I call Riverview.5 As part of my larger project on the new privatization, I also had the opportunity to talk with a dozen senior executives and middle managers of for-profit and nonprofit tutoring firms located throughout the United States. The latter helped frame my understanding of developments in policy and markets at the national level.

In my analysis, I explore SES as a shadow form of education contracting.6 By shadow, I mean several things. SES represents a form of market-based education services that occurs in the shadows of the regular school day and in this regard generally has escaped notice. By shadow, I also am referencing a key concept that surfaces continually in the new privatization. This is the idea that rather than bringing something new to public education, market-based education services imitate standard practices of public schooling. As I describe in more detail later in the chapter, in SES, this shadowing is manifested in the use of worksheets and teacher-centered instruction.

I also argue in this chapter that there is a fundamental issue within SES that is linked to a larger problem in market-based education services.7 The underlying intent of the law appears directed toward not placing undue costs or barriers on providers rather than ensuring an adequate supply of services and accommodations for special needs students and English Language Learners (ELL). Federal requirements offer little in the way of adequate protection to these students.8 The next section of the chapter describes the national context of SES and its characteristics of a strong market and weak state. This discussion, which further develops themes introduced in Chapter 1, provides a framework for understanding and interpreting local experiences and effects.

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