Wichita Private tutoring services used to fulfill requirements of the No Child Left Behind law are not being properly monitored to ensure they are helping students, critics in the Wichita school district say.
And Kansas education officials concede that state oversight of the system needs some improvements.
The federal No Child Left Behind law, designed to make all students proficient in math and reading by 2014, requires school districts to pay for private tutors at schools that don't meet certain minimum standards on state tests.
Reauthorization of the law is before Congress this year.
The Kansas State Department of Education selects the private tutoring services that can be used in the state. Parents select the provider they want for their children, and once that choice is made, the school district has little oversight.
"If parents choose it, we have to go with it," said Susan Smith, the Wichita school district's Title I director.
In Wichita, 583 students from schools with a high percentage of low-income families are enrolled in after-school tutoring programs. The school district is required to pay for the tutors with part of its Title I money, federal funding for schools with high percentages of low-income students.
Wichita is spending an average of $1,800 per student, with a bill to taxpayers of more than $1 million.
State officials acknowledge that oversight of the tutors is a problem.
"The big issue is evaluating the effectiveness," said Judi Miller, the state Department of Education's assistant director of state and federal programs.
Miller noted that even if a student's test score increases, there is no way to tell if it's because of the tutoring program, something a classroom teacher is doing or a change in the student's personal life.