Sunday, August 14, 2022

Can high-dosage tutoring close the pandemic gap?


The collected body of educational testing data continues to grow and reveal impeded academic learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Math is suffering more than reading, but the differences between where students would have been academically without the pandemic and where they are now is undeniable. And differences persist across the entire academic performance spectrum and across all subgroups of students, with students of color and those from high-poverty schools showing the most missed learning.

Districts and state departments of education are searching for answers, and one strategy that has popped up is the idea of “high-dosage tutoring,” with highly qualified and trained tutors from the community.

Tutoring is not a new idea, of course, and several schools use peer tutoring to some degree.

For example, at Antioch Community High School in Illinois, the peer tutoring program is off to a slow but sure start, reports Megan Harding in The Tom Tom, the student newspaper at the school.

Fellow students “bounce ideas off each other and discuss the content in ways teachers may not be able to,” the paper quoted Homework Hangouts sponsor Kara Bolton as saying. “They can relate to one another more.”

But sometimes, it takes a professional.

At Coral Glades High School in Florida, in keeping with the ways of the pandemic, the effects of which officials at the school hope tutoring can mitigate, a virtual tutoring program has been established.

The virtual tutoring program can “promote self-progression in self-esteem, confidence, and studying habits,” opines Iyonni Baptiste in The Prowl student newspaper.

At a webinar this afternoon for reporters, sponsored by the Education Writers Association, Andrew McEachin, director at NWEA, the MAP test developer, cautioned against thinking of any one solution as a silver bullet and to continually evaluate the quality of any solution strategy we try.

“High-dosage tutoring may work in certain circumstances,” he said, but not in others. The way in which we determine whether a program is effective in a specific school is just as important as finding a good program. If we don’t measure the efficacy of programs this time, he said, it will be more difficult to convince the federal government to provide funds to support similar programs in the future.

Superintendent Sharon Contreras, of Guilford County Schools in North Carolina, noted how hard it is for school districts to hire and retain good personnel these days. “Just look at how hard it is to find bus drivers right now,” she exclaimed.

And if bus drivers are that hard to find and retain, just imagine how much harder it’ll be to find the hundreds or thousands of highly qualified tutors needed by a school district for a successful high-dosage tutoring program!

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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