Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
The for-profit tutoring industry is foundering as states line up for waivers to provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The private tutoring industry exploded in the United States under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. But as states lined up for federal waivers that ease some of the law’s requirements, that boom has turned into a bust.

Education Week newsmagazine reported this week that the number of private tutoring businesses dropped by about 50 percent over the past several years as 40 states and the District of Columbia have been granted NCLB waivers from the U.S. Department of Education.

The waivers allow schools serving high populations of needy students to skirt the law’s mandate that they use 20 percent of their federal Title I funds for after-school tutoring and transportation for school choice, the story said. With federal dollars increasingly going toward other purposes, for-profit tutoring providers have had to find new revenues or close down.

Troubled industry

Education Week’s analysis showed that among states that have received NCLB waivers, very few included supplemental education — after-school tutoring — in their waiver plans. Across the nation, states have found it difficult to provide adequate oversight to for-profit tutoring companies, the story said.

“Low participation rates, questions regarding the effectiveness of the program, and costs have all made the tutoring services controversial,” said a 2011 report from New America Foundation.

Further, requiring Title I money to be spent on for-profit tutoring led to cuts in programs with greater proven effectiveness, such as school districts’ own tutoring programs, the report said. Those other Title I programs can include efforts to improve teacher quality, increase parent involvement and raise instructional standards.

A crackdown on fraudulent tutoring contractors is underway in Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reported last February.

A three-month investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that “lax state oversight has made subsidized tutoring a source of easy cash for criminals, cheaters and opportunists,” the story said.

Florida’s state education office laid out plans to do criminal background checks on owners of tutoring companies; cut expenses, which average $60 an hour per student; and improve measures of effectiveness for tutoring programs.

Latest blow

On Aug. 6, eight California school districts received one-year NCLB waivers, winning the authority to decide how to spend up to $150 million in funding, some of which was previously earmarked for tutoring, Education Week reported.

As of Aug. 15, five of the districts will stop paying providers for after-school tutoring programs — the latest blow to the for-profit tutoring industry.

The bursting bubble in the tutoring industry follows a boom that happened after the No Child Left Behind Act became law in 2002. Government funding for tutoring services grew 45 percent from 2001 to 2005, the story said; more recent figures are not available.

Larger companies in the tutoring market will feel little effect from the recent downturn, as they have moved into market segments geared to new common core state standards and digital forms of instruction, Education Week reported. But smaller companies are feeling the hurt — looking for ways to transform themselves and closing their doors if they can’t.


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