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OPINION | Done right, high dosage tutoring will help students recover learning loss

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HAGÅTÑA — It has been said that “our last mistake is our best teacher.”

To do "High Dosage Tutoring" right, which is touted as holding the most promise for mitigating the dual learning losses of the long summer break and the pandemic, we'd best pay heed to avoid the mistakes of the past. The No Child Left Behind tutoring interventions, which cost billions, failed to improve the academic progress of poor students.

Morgan Smith’s article "Explanations Vary as Tutoring Program Falls Short of Expectations," (available online) from the Texas Tribune in 2013, documented why the federally funded programs were botched.

To summarize, the tutoring programs operated after school. The vendors were not vetted by school leaders. They expected to have access to school campuses for recruitment of students. School systems were to provide 20 percent of their federal monies to outside companies to conduct tutoring programs. The tutors did not have to be educators. The outside companies were guaranteed monies for the programs. Vendors were not required to be in alignment with school learning goals. Schools were not allowed to determine how the funds would be leveraged. Conflict ensued. Funds were at stake. School leaders got creative in denying access to noneducators to school campuses. Students, who needed tutoring to lift their achievement, never received the services to make it happen.

Research indicates that the learning losses due to the pandemic since March, summer losses and an uncertain new school year could mean that most students will be behind an equivalent of one year of schooling. For book-poor children, this loss alone can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. High Dosage Tutoring, done right, has promise to mitigate the loss for all students.

The massive hit on the educational progress of students requires a bold tutoring response to move the needle of success.

College graduates need jobs and students need tutoring. They can be matched, creating a win-win collaboration. Culturally competent engagement with dual language learners must be part of the package. Tutors must work in schools where they will be supervised and monitored. As an integral part of normal school time, tutors can provide individualized attention to small pods of students at a time for the length of a class period. Reading and math proficiency development through High Dosage Tutoring will be key. Those are the two subject areas where the greatest losses occur. This emergency measure will provide front line tutors for the next few years.

In their essay, "Getting tutoring right to reduce Covid-19 learning loss," Matthew Kraft and Michael Goldstein suggested:

  • Educational leaders, board members, teachers and labor union leaders must support the effort.
  • Program administrators should hire recent college graduates as tutors. They will need training and vetting. Some tutors may decide to become teachers as a result.
  • Tutors should be selected with care. Include parents, teachers and students in the vetting process.
  • Avoid making High Density Tutoring a “struggling student” —only effort. Every student is taking a hit from the double whammy of summer and Covid-19 learning loss. Albeit, students from book-poor homes will need the benefits more than ever.
  • Tutors work with the same students at a single school for the entire school year. Two tutors per school grade will allow for consistency and continuous improvement. Small pods of students are most effective.

These times call for creative ways of making services available through distance education. Priya Thomas noted: “Virtualized tutoring services that allow students to peruse tutor profiles, read reviews, make an appointment, attend their session and leave feedback in a single platform will quickly win over students.”

Funding is always a challenge. Notwithstanding, some monies are likely to become available to mitigate losses. Everything from AmeriCorps and City Year, to the Tennessee Tutoring Corp. model need to be considered as best practices.

High Dosage Tutoring offers a viable strategy. It provides jobs. It adds value to what we are doing right. It works best when it’s part of the total educational team response to the current crisis. A gathering of critical decision makers to make High Density Tutoring happen in our Islands is essential.


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