In a rare reversal in favor of funding, some 3,500 New York City public school students will not lose free tutoring services this week after all.
A sudden spike in the number of schools where students are eligible for free tutoring, under No Child Left Behind rules, had caused the city to tighten its eligibility guidelines.
But the Education Department reversed course and sent principals another letter last month, saying the city will not cut off services for students who are already going to tutoring, said Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman in the Education Department.
However, those who applied for tutoring for the first time will face new criteria. Only the very poor - meaning students who get free lunch - will be eligible for services, instead of those who also qualify for reduced-price meals.
Stephen Duch, the principal of Hillcrest High School, in Queens, said he feared some students would still be hurt by this restriction. He noted that families who got reduced-price meals weren't exactly well-off.
"I think we all agree that living in New York City with a family of four on an income of $41,000, it does not really allow the family much discretionary money to provide tutoring," he said.
Mr. Duch said that he had about 800 ninth graders this year, and that those who performed badly last fall might want to apply for tutoring this winter.
Mid-year tutoring is available to students who are eligible for free meals and who are considered academically struggling - meaning they scored at a level 1 or 2 last year on state math and English exams.
The city has never had to impose this academic priority before, because the demand for services didn't exceed funding limits. Before last fall, about 300 New York City schools were deemed Schools in Need of Improvement under the No Child Left Behind Law, including Hillcrest. But that number doubled late last year because the state exam became harder to pass, and because an increasing number of schools are able to meet the strict annual performance goals required by the federal law.