Hundreds of thousands of students are eligible for free tutoring under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, but less than 15% of them are getting it, according to the U.S. Department of Education. While districts have improved efforts to notify parents early in the school year that their children qualify for tutoring, this is still a problem, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported to Congress in 2006. Here’s what to do if you think your child is eligible.

How do I find out if my child qualifies?

Your district is required to inform you. Your state Department of Education also has this information.

Generally, your child qualifies if she is getting a free or reduced-price lunch and attends a Title I school categorized as “in need of improvement” for two years in a row. Title I schools are in attendance areas where at least 35% of the students and their families are low income.

Who provides the tutoring?

Providers can be for-profit companies, nonprofits (community organizations or colleges, for example), but they must be approved by your state.

Because of the millions of dollars available for tutoring, NCLB has created a boom in the industry, attracting some providers with little or no history of improving student performance. While it’s up to states to monitor the quality of tutoring, most struggle to do so effectively, according to a 2007 report by the Center on Education Policy.

As private companies, school officials and government agencies argue over the rules, parents have to ask lots of questions to learn the full range of tutoring services available to their children.

How do I find a tutor for my child?

Your state Department of Education is required to maintain a list of approved providers that shows which services are offered in your school district. Approved providers don’t necessarily offer services in every community.

How can I be sure my child is getting a good tutor?

While NCLB requires that classroom teachers have credentials, it does not set standards for tutors. That means parents need to do their homework to take full advantage of the law. Read Need to Get a Tutor? Here are Questions You Should Ask on for ideas about what to ask when you’re considering a tutor.

Ask school district officials and tutoring service providers whether a tutoring program follows your district’s program of instruction. It’s also important to know whether a tutor will regularly communicate with your child’s teacher and with you. Don’t assume this will happen.

How is the school involved?

Once a family chooses an approved tutoring service, the district contracts with and pays the service. A provider that doesn’t help students improve for two or more years is supposed to be removed from the state list. The provider is required to set goals for your child in a meeting with you, your district and your child’s teacher or principal, then report your child’s progress back to all of you. You should ask how often you will get these updates.

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Updated: March 18, 2016