District, Harvard to work on tutoring contracts

Ector County ISD is working on a project with Harvard University on outcomes-based contracting that is aimed at benefiting students.
“We are exploring the concept of outcomes based contracting. This is something that is really common in the business community, but something that you don’t find typically in education. Simply put, outcomes-based contracting means that we will work with a vendor and that vendor will receive payment based upon the quality of service that they provide,” Superintendent Scott Muri said in his media call Wednesday.
“Specifically for us, we’re working with Harvard on identifying several companies that do virtual tutoring — they provide high-dosage, one-on-one tutoring to ECISD students … at the elementary, middle and high school level,” Muri said.
The goal is to identify those vendors and only pay them if students demonstrate a certain amount of academic growth.
“… You see this type of contracting in the business world, so we’re excited to learn from our business community the things that they are doing that are effective and then utilize some of those best practices in education,” Muri said.
The terms of success will be written into the contract with Harvard, he added.
“We’re going to use a growth measure. We have an assessment in ECISD that allows us to monitor the academic growth and performance of our students, and so we will tie that growth measure to the contract that we agree to with the partner. Again, Harvard is helping shape that contract to make sure that we’re using some really good analytics to define student success and then ultimately using that to define the dollar amount that we would pay those vendors,” Muri said.
Subjects students would be tutored in are core areas of English, math, science and social studies, he added.
“As a part of our work with Harvard, a group of tutoring companies has already been identified. They have been pre-vetted, if you will, by Harvard as first of all folks that will provide a service that is of high quality, and secondly companies that were interested in working on this type of contract. Not every vendor is interested in working in this environment. Many vendors simply want to sell their service to you regardless of its affect on kids. … In this case, the contracts kind of guarantee the success of the product with our kids,” Muri said.
With the firms screened by Harvard, Muri said the district’s job is to figure out which of the vendors make sense for the district.
High-dosage, Muri said, refers to the amount of tutoring students would receive.
“… Rather than being tutored once a month or every other week, it’s a large amount of tutoring that those students would receive in that environment,” Muri said.
The number of students will be part of the contract negation and impacted by available funds.
“The dollars will drive, if you will, the amount of opportunity that is available for our students. And we’ll tap a variety of resources. As the public is aware, the federal government recently passed some legislation that it is sending more dollars to schools so that we can begin to address some of the significant learning loss that has happened. We will be using some of those federal dollars to invest in this particular program,” Muri said.
He added that vendors will only receive payment if they are successful with students.
“… It certainly benefits them to be as successful with our kids as they can possibly be,” Muri said.
In October, ECISD announced it was the first school district in the country to partner with SpaceX to bring high-speed satellite broadband to families in Ector County. The pilot project was planned to start in January, but was delayed.
“Specifically, we’re focusing on a group of families in the Pleasant Farms area. This month, we hope to have our devices delivered and installed in the first 45 families. The goal is to secure broadband for 135 families, but we’re going to start with 45. In working with SpaceX, they want to ensure that those initial 45 families experience a high rate of success and then we will transition to the final 135 families. (We are) anxious to get that work underway and excited to partner with SpaceX as we do this and also grateful to the partners that made this happen …,” Muri said.
The Permian Strategic Partnership, Odessa Development Corp., a Houston philanthropic organization and Chiefs for Change are among those that have contributed to the effort, Muri said.
“… So a lot dollars flowing into Ector County to make sure that this opportunity can be made available to our families,” he added.
Muri also reminded families that Feb. 15 is a regular day of school. It was going to be a bad weather day, but there was bad weather in October.
On the still-in-progress contract with the YMCA to help provide a prekindergarten 3 year old program, Muri said this is something new for both organizations.
“We are very confident in the work that they’ve committed to. Again kind of like outcomes-based contracting, our agreement with them will be based upon success over time. Our goal is for this to be as successful as it can and also our agreement with them isn’t that they do this on their own. We are a part of the education of our 3-year-olds so our teachers will be working with their staff as well to make sure that they are trained and developed to do this work” at the level ECISD expects, Muri said.
“These will be certified teachers that will be teaching 3 year olds. In the state of Texas, one must be certified, licensed if you will, in order to teach 3 year olds with the type of program that we’re talking about. Certainly there are other 3 year old day cares and 3 year old after school programs that may have different type of certifications, but this is school and the state of Texas, as well as ECISD require a certain type of certificate to make sure that the teachers and those working with these kids are licensed, certified and prepared to teach,” Muri added.