A quality education is a right that every student across our nation deserves. Unfortunately, the latest data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Department of Civil Rights Office shows student inequalities that plague our educational system have been further exacerbated by disrupted learning during the pandemic.
It is disheartening to read in the report that high schools with higher Black and Latino enrollment were offered fewer science, math, and computer science classes than schools with a lower Black and Latino population.
Education should be colorblind, but the lack of proper funding for schools in lower economic communities, and the growing epidemic of teacher shortages are problematic. Although most students struggled during the pandemic and experienced learning loss, poorer districts, on average, suffered the worst and are even further behind their more affluent counterparts academically.
In March 2022, the federal government made attempts to right the ship though the allocation of $190 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (ESSER) as part of the Covid Relief laws. These funds were distributed to States to help provide services and technology to schools to help close learning gaps. Additional rounds of funding, ($54.3 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Release Supplemental Appropriation Act, December 2020 (ESSER II funding) and $122 billion, from the American Rescue Plan, March 2021 (ESSER III funding) were also provided to address pandemic-related issues. However, the most recent report card from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) still showed that lower performers in racial/ethnic groups experienced a continual decline in performance in basic reading skills at age 9 and an even wider spread of decline in mathematical knowledge for both age 9 and 13.
Many districts across the nation are utilizing ESSER funding to address these issues by embracing the research behind High-Dosage Tutoring (HDT), which has been dubbed one of the most effective means of helping students who are behind catch up to their peers. HDT is defined as follows:
- three or more sessions per week of 30 minutes or more;
- small group sessions of no more than 4 students per group;
- a stated focus on cultivating tutor-student relationships;
- personalized learning using formative and ongoing assessments;
- alignment with the school curriculum; and
- use of high-quality, trained tutors
The NAEP wrote a research overview of 15 larger-scale high-dosage tutoring programs that found these types of intensive tutoring programs increased student learning by an additional 2 to 10 months of learning.
High-Dosage Tutoring (HDT), also referred to as High-Intensity Tutoring (HIT) in some parts of the country is designed to cross socioeconomic barriers by identifying those students who are furthest behind and provide them with personalized, and intensive help through evidence-based instructional strategies. HDT has helped students grow academically and improved student confidence, decreased behavioral problems in the classroom and increased student attendance.
Districts are now facing an economic cliff as the deadline to spend the last round of ESSER funding (ESSER III) is set to expire in September 2024. The concern for all educators is how to continue to fund these programs. As a nation, we need to put politics aside and continue to work together to make education of ALL students a priority. The federal government should continue to invest in strategies. like High-Dosage Tutoring, that has been proven to accelerate learning. We must acknowledge the effects of the pandemic, as well as a litany of other challenges that our neediest students face and prioritize a researcher-based solution. With proper investment, all the successful tutoring programs that have been, and are being created across the country can continue to accelerate students’ learning.