The pandemic showed that for students to get quality instruction, especially poor children of color, America must invest in real teachers, smaller class sizes, and better working conditions, including improved school facilities.
So why is the focus on tutors?
“Accelerated high-dosage” tutoring. We have been here before. With No Child Left Behind, tutoring didn’t work so now there’s brand new terminology and an intense marketing campaign by the same individuals who promote school privatization.
Covid-19 fears, including poor working conditions, and the lack of being heard have driven teachers out of the classroom. Schools need to reduce class sizes, which has become a problem.
Concurrently, parents have learned that technology is insufficient. Most parents can’t wait for their child’s public school to reopen.
Where’s the focus on teachers? Instead, tutors are touted as providing “personalized learning,” eerily what Americans were told about technology.
There’s the Johns Hopkins Marshall Plan for tutors described as just as good as teachers!
These tutors would be required to have a college degree, but not necessarily a teaching certificate. Research has found that such tutors, using proven models with excellent professional development, can improve the achievement of students struggling in reading or mathematics as much as can teachers serving as tutors.
Future Ed, a think tank out of George Washington University, made up of Teach for America types, some from the Broad Institute, promote tutors in The Case for a National Tutoring System. They’re funded by the: Barr Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The City Fund, Joyce Foundation, Overdeck Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.
Of course, this idea would require a substantial investment from the federal government. In addition to tutor pay, our blueprint also includes funding for embedded coordinators in schools and districts and peer leaders that support tutors ongoing development. We estimate that a program targeting all K-12 students in the nation’s 20,000 lowest-performing schools would cost the federal government about $10 billion annually. Expanding tutoring across all K-8 schools with high concentrations of students from low-income backgrounds—so-called Title I schools—would cost approximately $16 billion annually.
Matthew Kraft who is an associate professor of education and economics at Brown University and the research director of Future Ed also co-authored a paper published by the Annenberg Foundation “Accelerating Tutoring with High Dosage Tutoring.” Here they say:
Although teachers tend to be the most consistently effective tutors, recent studies have found that AmeriCorps members and paraprofessionals (teaching assistants) can be just as effective when tutoring one-to-one or small groups.
Americorps is known for supporting Teach for America.
There’s Saga Education advertised as in-person or online. McKinsey & Company, who’s been pushing learning loss, lavish praise on tutoring by Saga.
Antonio Gutierrez, co-founder of Saga Education. “We know that high-dosage tutoring models like Saga drive positive outcomes for students. The support and recognition from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Ken Griffin will allow us to scale research-proven supports to our most vulnerable students in a dire moment.”
Supported by nearly $6M in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin, philanthropic dollars will enable Saga Education to reach 1,600 new high school students in under resourced schools in the 2020-21 school year.
Saga is found in Broward County, Chicago, New York City, and Washington D.C., coming to a school district near you. They work with Americorps who support Teach for America.
In August, Education Week reported High-Dosage Tutoring is Effective But Expensive: Ideas for Making it Work mentioning Instruction Partners, who also promote tutoring.
“The magic of tutoring of course seems to be this individualized ability to both diagnose, and hover, in ways that just lead to real progress,” noted Emily Freitag, the CEO of Instruction Partners, a nonprofit working with districts in several states to develop COVID-19 instructional plans.
Freitag had high-level education jobs in the Tennessee Department of Education. She is from Teach for America. They describe as their mission:
We work shoulder to shoulder with educators to support great teaching and accelerate student learning. We focus on small systems, both districts and charters. We work to ensure equitable access to great instruction for students in poverty, students of color, students learning English, and students with disabilities.
Teachers are lumped together with paraprofessionals and tutors. But teachers are professionals with teaching degrees.
It’s not that tutors can’t be helpful, but tutors need guidance from the teachers who know the students.
State leaders and school boards should be reaching out to teachers who retired early due to the pandemic, or because they weren’t valued before Covid-19. Universities should be recruiting young people to be real teachers, and this country should be lifting teachers to the professional status they rightly deserve.
It’s hard to believe that parents want to settle for tutors when their children return to in-person classes.
Tutoring isn’t new. Schools have often employed business groups and volunteer tutors to work with students. Last May, students started Connecting Chicago to provide voluntary tutoring. Even AOC started a homework helper program related to the pandemic.
Tutors may have a school place, but they should not be seen as an educational panacea alone. They do not replace teachers. The need for qualified teachers and improved school infrastructure must be the priority, especially during these troubling times.
Mike Simpson has shared with me some history surrounding tutoring programs, reports collected from as far back as 2012. SES is Supplemental Education Services. Here. Thanks, Mike!
Heaven forbid that they give this kind of attention/funding directly to public schools. This initiative looks like another attempt to further impoverish public schools. Who really believes that sustaining this push long term won’t eventually if not immediately impact funding for public schools? Education dollars tend to be viewed as one pot. Add another mouth feeding from that pot means less for everyone else. Of course, if they keep ignoring teachers and the knowledge and experience they have to offer, we won’t have to worry about the quality of teachers because there won’t be any.
Nancy Bailey says
Agree! Thank you! I keep wondering. Who will tutor? Will they be paid? How much? Who will direct them on what students need to learn? And it’s interesting how teachers are reduced to being tutors.
Why couldn’t this money be invested in smaller class sizes?
Sheila Resseger says
Brenda, Your question demands an answer, as it has for decades. If only schools had prioritized smaller classes for years, instead of wasting untold billions on testing, test prep, and test hardware and software, and simultaneously creating a warping of the curriculum, shoving aside the arts, sciences, and humanities that all children need to become capable and tolerant members of a diverse civil society. Teachers have asked and asked for this, but spending money on professional teachers was not a profit-making venture for those hell-bent on privatizing public education and putting public money in private hands, to the detriment of our children and our society. I am off-the-wall angry about this ongoing travesty.
Nancy Bailey says
Another great response, Sheila! One would have hoped Covid-19 would have proven the importance of lowered class sizes. Instead, teachers are getting more students by way of hybrid! Thank you, Brenda.
Brenda Morris says
Thanks for your reply, Sheila. I was too angry to get beyond my question and you have completely summed up my thoughts. I’m so tired of people with zero background in education making all the decisions for us as if we are not highly trained professionals. I’m so tired of the devaluing of education period.
Nancy Bailey says
I so agree, Brenda. Thank you.
Sheila Resseger says
The spring before I retired from teaching at the RI School for the Deaf, I was having a conversation with one of the administrators. This was also the year that we had been labeled a Persistently Lowest Achieving School, due to low scores on the state assessments (pre-PARCC). The school, a day school for deaf and hard of hearing students, was required to consider the four draconian choices for a school in our category, which might have meant that the school would be closed or taken over by a Charter Management Organization. (What would have happened to the students, whose IEP’s required instruction that needed to be provided by teachers fully qualified and experienced to teach them with their special needs, especially for literacy development in English?) I seem to remember that she mentioned that because of the designation, the school would need to provide after-school tutors. I was hoping that I could do this post-retirement, since I had years of experience working with these students. Well, I was told that that was unlikely, because the school would have to choose from certain outside tutoring companies. The implication was–why would the state/school want a teacher from the school doing the tutoring, when those teachers were responsible for the students’ low scores in the first place? I don’t think this was the preference of the administrator, but was what she was told were the rules. If there are any students whose academic achievement and needs should never be measured by mass-administered standardized tests that haven’t been normed for deaf students, it was our students. (In fact, RI has a law that mandates: “Individuals involved in administering assessment tools to students who are deaf or hard of hearing shall be proficient in the student’s primary communication mode, style, or language as determined by a language assessment consistent with the requirements of § 16-25.2-2. All assessments shall be delivered in the student’s primary communication mode, style, or language as determined by a language assessment consistent with the requirements of § 16-25.2-2, shall have been validated for the specific purposes for which they are used, and shall be appropriately normed.” Needless to say, this has never been done for RI state assessments.) This happened in 2010. …
Nancy Bailey says
One wonders if the nonprofit tutorial companies were later evaluated to determine student gains. Teachers unfairly blamed. Indeed sad, when teachers are those who are the real experts. Thank you, Sheila. Your voice is always appreciated.
Sheila Resseger says
I imagine they were evaluated, on similar invalid multiple-choice measures as the original testing. I wrote elsewhere about my experience in an after-school literacy program in a south Providence elementary school the year after I retired. I was required to give a pre-test, use the scripted materials, and then give a post-test. I was curious to see what the program would be like. It met my expectations that it would be a complete scam. The materials were of poor quality. The children were interested in the supplemental materials that I brought in, but not at all in the scripted materials. The child who had missed the most sessions scored the highest on the post-test–he didn’t need the program in the first place. One student was so distressed by the multiple-choice testing that he couldn’t put his pencil to the paper on the pre-test or the post-test. He actually could read. (I will never forget his plaintive question to me: “Why I have to take reading program?–I can read.”) The student who could not read one word went through the motions but only learned a very little that the others and I could support her with. (After the program ended I contacted the school to volunteer to come in to teach this one student, because she had no sense at all of what reading entailed. I never heard back from the school.) heartbreaking, and in my opinion, criminal
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks for sharing. That sounds typical. And I agree both heartbreaking and criminal.
Paul Bonner says
It has been my experience that too often the general public views teaching as a form of mission work, not a profession. Therefore, it is believed by too many policy makers, corporate donors, and politicians that little can be done to improve the the teaching force. The Standards Movement has revealed corporate disrupters who have little regard for teachers. Taking away tenure, hiring TFA “honor students” for two years, and releasing teachers before they get tenure demonstrates a callous approach to schooling. Tutoring as a strategy for improvement is simply an extension of such a mindset. Our governments have wasted a profound amounts of money during this high stakes high-tech era while significant evidence exists that investments in teacher preparation and support actually gets results. This is further evidence that ignorance about what is required to educate children is the real culprit to our dilemma.
Nancy Bailey says
Great point, Paul! Teach for America is like that. They treat education like charity work. Where are the university leaders?
Alison McDowell says
This is about pay for success finance and human capital bets on children as data commodities tracked on dashboards – for “equity”. Shame on you Nancy for leaving that part out. VAM was always going to be for the computer programs – avatar “mentors.” Most teachers did everything they could to create an inhumane future for the next generation of learners over the past two years. They need to take responsibility for their role in this debacle and wise up to the game plan. I know you know what’s coming. The fact that you all never talk about it and still just re-tread the same tired tropes says it all. It disgusts me. Oh, and the health passports that will come with the next “wave” of “pandemic” will create the blockchain transcript / community school vouchers / mindfile digital twins. Funny how it all works out, and you all will just be on the sidelines acting like you didn’t see it coming.