AERA 2012: Preliminary Findings of a Multisite Study of the Implementation and Effects of Supplemental Educational Services

American Educational Research Association

Apr 16, 14:15-15:45h

Patricia Burch (Univ of Southern California) and Carolyn Heinrich (Univ of Texas – Austin)

“Preliminary Findings of a Multisite Study of the Implementation and Effects of Supplemental Educational Services”

Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), schools that have not made adequate yearly progress in increasing student academic achievement for two years or more are required to offer parents of children in low-income families the opportunity to receive extra academic assistance, or supplemental educational services (SES). This paper works with ideas from the field of policy sociology to develop an understanding of SES as shaped by a complex interplay of forces; this field is particularly useful in analyzing a complex policy such as SES because it seeks to understand the intersection of macro and micro systems. This multilayered policy requires these various systems and actors to interact in new ways and in relatively uncharted policy territory. Research Setting and Design Findings are based on data from an ongoing multi-site study of the implementation and impact of supplemental educational services. The central purpose of this study is to understand whether and how providing students with academically focused out-of-school tutoring in reading and mathematics contributes to improvements in their academic performance, specifically in reading and mathematics. It involves three linked phases of research. Phase 1 is an in-depth qualitative study designed to define key elements of SES program models and the policy and practice variables that mediate implementation of these models and to also inform the construction of the measures of SES treatment for quantitative analysis. Phase 2 is a quantitative study investigating selection into SES (i.e., who registers and participates) and SES program impacts, using propensity score matching and fixed-effect methods with nonequivalent (internal) comparison groups. Phase 3 is a follow-up qualitative study to examine whether program features identified in Phase 1 continue over time and to further inform our interpretation of the quantitative findings of program impact from Phase 2. We are conducting this research in five urban school districts located in four states and representing different student demographics. Findings Our analysis reveals three primary themes. First, in order to understand and address the policy problems in SES, we need to see the policy as driven by a particular theory of action – the idea that public policy needs to be modeled around and accommodate the market place. Second, while NCLB employs the common rhetoric to equalize educational opportunities for the poor, the design of SES contributes to power asymmetries that sometimes privilege the financial interests of individual private firms and frustrate collective access to information. Thus, expanding the ability of SES to serve the goal of equal opportunity requires addressing the ways in which design and discourse of the policy denies equal access to knowledge for eligible participants and stakeholders. The other key to improving SES lies in the quality of instruction inside the SES classroom and the relationships between teachers, parents, students and tutors. In short, any effort to improve SES must address the perverse or inadequate incentives written into the design of current policy while solutions for improving policy should be anchored in deep understanding of actual classroom/tutoring conditions and the quality of relationships built there.

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