The Power of Tutoring

by Jax Chaudhry, DC Regional Director, Literacy Lab

DC’s students who read at grade level have fallen behind by three months, while at-risk students (students who receive public benefits like TANF and SNAP, experience homelessness, experience the foster care system, and, for high school students, are more than two academic years behind for their age) have suffered learning loss in reading at four times the rate of their peers this school year, according to research from EmpowerK12. These losses aren’t unique to DC, and are seen in communities across the country

The pandemic has widened savage inequalities and increased academic loss. But equitable gains for our students is possible, and it starts with high-dosage tutoring.

High-dosage tutoring, as part of a comprehensive, student-focused solution, helps to narrow inequities and leads to student gains. Effective high-dosage tutoring pairs students with a rigorously trained, full-time tutor. With daily academic interventions, aligned with progress monitoring, students can be successful, starting in preschool. 

The Literacy Lab has been in the tutoring space for more than 12 years, expanding school capacity for effective individualized literacy tutoring support. We serve students and schools  with high at-risk student populations. In our work, we have observed students who start 20% below grade level reach grade level in just one year, when given a full year of high-dosage tutoring and classroom support. And it pays off: early literacy tutoring intervention beginning in pre-K makes students four times more likely to be successful in high school, the inverse is true for students who do not read proficiently by the end of the third grade, who are four times more likely to leave school without a high school diploma

We know students and families are weary of the term “learning loss,” and we are clamoring for student supports focused on equitable student learning gains.

There is an urgent need to provide tutors for students, especially in-person tutors. The Literacy Lab and other partners can help schools meet those needs by coaching tutors who build school capacity and provide individualized student support. Students will need socio-emotional support and tutors already develop strong relationships with students by empowering them and recognizing them outside of the classroom. Tutors not only provide needed support to students, but are often joining the pipeline to become educators themselves. The cost to our students’ learning experience is not a single year problem, but a multi-year one requiring a strong pipeline of diverse future educators — a pipeline bolstered by tutors who continue to train as educators. 

Our students have not been able to learn and grow in-person, socialize with their friends and play for a year. We owe it to all students and especially students most affected by the pandemic to give them a year of equitable academic gains.  

Jax Chaudhry is the DC Regional Director at The Literacy Lab, a founding partner of Strongest Year Yet. To learn more, visit https://theliteracylab.org/.

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